13 July 2007

Letters Place Political Spin above Community

By all accounts, the Columbia 40 celebration and city fair were a great success. It was a time and place to celebrate this special community; good food, great entertainment, a chance to reminisce with old friends and share experiences with new friends. Most of all, I believe it was a chance to put aside differences and enjoy each others company. As I began reading the Letters to the Editor in the Columbia Flier this week, I thought Lloyd Knowles had a similar remembrance:

For the past month or so the Columbia downtown has been jumping. The arts festival, the extraordinarily revived City Fair, Clyde's Thursdays, Mr. B's movies, bluegrass music, the fireworks! Hundreds of thousands of souls roaming around having fun, day after day.

But then he shows his true intent:

And all this vibrancy without a single dwelling unit having been added to Town Center. I believe this experience shows that a vital, exciting downtown can be achieved with events and destinations mixed in with a moderate residential expansion. If you give people reasons to come downtown, they will.

I think it is shameful to use the celebration downtown to further a political agenda. Beyond the politicizing of the downtown festivities, there are other problems with Lloyd’s letter. His assertion that “hundreds of thousands of souls roaming around having fun, day after day,” is wildly inaccurate. Just last week, Cynthia Coyle, a CA Board member, stated that the attendance over the city fair weekend was on the order of 50,000 – 60,000 people. Moreover the group-think eschewed by Lloyd and fellow CoFoCoDo member Alan Klein (scroll down) that the festivals are evident of a vibrant (vital, exciting) downtown is false. The Festival of the Arts and the City Fair were products of hundreds of thousands of dollars donated and hundreds of hours put in by scores of volunteers. Without that infrastructure, the “vibrancy” would melt away into the July humidity.

Another Celebration Marred

Just a few inches away from Lloyd’s letter, fellow CoFoCoDo member Rebecca Johnson weighed in on the Longfellow 4th of July parade:

Once again this year I attended the Longfellow Fourth of July parade, now in its 37th year. The charm and joy of a true neighborhood parade were everywhere. Families -- on bikes, pulling wagons, walking dogs decked out in red, white and blue -- all paraded by as I watched from the curbside.

After the setup, Rebecca lets loose:

The parade is well known for its tradition of addressing local community issues, and this year was no exception. All along the route, dozens of neighbors lifted homemade signs to County Executive Ken Ulman as he rode by. The signs carried statements such as "150 feet - YES! Tower - NO!," "We're with you, Ken!" and "Go Ken Go -- Block the Tower!" Neighborhood residents clearly wanted to take this opportunity to remind Mr. Ulman of his pre-election promise to enact height limits in Columbia and block (his words) the proposed high-rise Plaza Residences.

What these letters have in common is the use of an event intended to bring the community together by CoFoCoDo members to further their agenda. Thousands visited downtown Columbia to share in what is great about this community. Days later, we all celebrated what is great about this country. Apparently Lloyd and Rebecca chose not to join us.


Anonymous said...

Celebration marred? Lloyd and Rebecca chose not to join us? Seriously - lighten up. Lloyd pointed out the obvious - the events were well attended and provided ongoing and widespread enjoyment.

Paraphrasing Twain, the rumors of Town Center's death are greatly exaggerated and these events served as examples.

"the group-think ... that the festivals are evident of a vibrant (vital, exciting) downtown is false."

If you disqualify such events as proof of Town Center's liveliness because the events took the community's and sponsors' funding and many hours of volunteer time (thousands actually, not hundreds), then you should probably qualify what kind of evidence you do believe is valid. These events, along with other recurring events throughout the year have provided Town Center plenty of free or affordable enjoyment. What would count for you? A strip of stores along Little Patuxent Parkway, itself, like these events, requiring community patronage to exist?

Rebecca accurately described what has gone on at the LongFellow 4th parade for decades - a lot of family and community fun, a lot of 4th spirit, a lot of free speech, a lot of creativity, and many politicians being seen in the parade and getting Longfellow's two cents along the way.

Their descriptions of these events allowed others who weren't in attendance to share in that spirit.

Anonymous said...

Lloyd and Rebecca (and Bobo and Klein and Coren) all have the annoying habit of speaking for "all" of Columbia. I wish they'd get their head out of their collective circle of lackeys and see that there are other opinions out there.

B. Santos said...

A few points. I agree that Lloyd did point out that the events provided ongoing and widespread enjoyment. This theme was also put forth by myself, hayduke, CA Board of Directors member Cindy Coyle, and CA Board of Directors Chair Barbara Russell, among others.

However, in an effort to characterize the attendance, Lloyd exaggerated attendance figures to “hundreds of thousands of souls…day after day.” Now, crowd attendance is not a science. Cindy Coyle put city fair attendance at 50,000 – 60,000 over the three day city fair period. As another point of reference, the population of Howard County is in the neighborhood of 270,000 people. Given Lloyd’s assertion of “hundreds of thousands,” would imply the population of the County doubled during the festivities. Moreover, Lloyd puts the throng in downtown, which is approximately 500 acres. It is clearly an overestimation by at least a factor of 10. By the way, if Lloyd had estimated the crowds by the same magnitude lower, as in “dozens of souls…day after day,” I believe the criticism would be equally valid.

To use his numbers during this time period as conclusive evidence that downtown Columbia is a vibrant (vital, exciting) place is a stretch. Data that could be collected during the same time period in Columbia can be construed to find other wildly false conclusions. For instance, given the average temperature during the 40 day celebration and the almost equal periods of day and night, one could surmise that downtown Columbia is in a subtropical city located somewhere near the equator. My point being, the sample is too small to ascertain any real result.

What is particularly shocking is what Lloyd does with his exaggerated figures. He bends the fictitious number to his “moderate density” political agenda. More important than the numbers, I find this to be the most troubling aspect of Lloyd’s letter. There is an air of bad taste/bad manners. In my opinion, it is similar to a person handing out business cards (to drum up clients) during a child’s birthday party or a funeral. It's putting one's personal interest above the event. As I stated before, I believe events like the Festival of the Arts or the city fair should be about putting aside differences and enjoying not only the entertainment, but also the people and the setting.

In the end, Lloyd’s letter makes me feel sad. Lloyd and I have similar backgrounds. We are both engineers and Navy vets. We both love this county and this town. To see him go to these lengths, for reasons I am not quite certain, just diminishes the high regard I have for the man.

Anonymous said...

You're a real twit. You have absolutely no proof that Town Center is "dead" other than your smelly opinion, and the equally smelly opinion of a few other bloggers and your circle of lackey friends. So you're guilty of the same posturing and politicing that you criticize Lloyd Knowles for doing.

Go to Town Center on any weekday during the summer, or any weeknight or weekend not during the summer, and you'll find plenty of activity and economic vitality.

It's time for you and those in favor of the increased density plan to stop lying in an attempt to justify your obsession with redeveloping, I mean, ruining Columbia.

Jessie Newburn said...

Bill, a twit? Hey, anonymouse 5,012, I just came back from Town Center (sic). I have gone to the every Wednesday lunch concert series this year, and I can't remember a day when more than 20 people attended.

The concert series is, imo, squandered quasi-public resources in the form of a CA expenditure to put on an event to act like we have vibrancy at the lakefront. There's got to be a better solution, such as, for example, moving the concert series up to where the real "vibrancy" exists: between the office buildings where there is actual foot traffic to and from the buildings, particularly the American City Building and Lakeside Cafe.

I think it would be a great idea for CA to transform the concert series from an electricity-dependent activity to a gentle concert right by Hug Park. (That Hug Park reference is for you, anony-mouse, as you probably think that a walkway between two office buildings is the equivalent of "a park" in the 'burbs.) CA -- iffin they own the property -- could do wonders by putting amenities along the foot traffic that occurs naturally, rather than putting the "vibrancy" in a place that's out of the way to the day traffic.

B. Santos said...

Anon 22:10,

Lying? Where are the lies? It appears that you have derived them, because I have not written any lies. I didn’t say Town Center was “dead.” Another (or possibly the same) anonymous commenter stated that rumors of Town Center being “dead” were exaggerated.

Moreover, if you read what I wrote, you will see that I am offended by Lloyd Knowles using the city fair, the Festival of the Arts, and the Fourth of July as vehicles for his “moderate” density agenda. I have not done this. It is clear that Lloyd Knowles has done this. I encourage you to find any reference that I have made to the city fair as evidence for enhancing downtown development. In addition, take a look at the Sunday, July 22, 2207 Baltimore Sun Letters to the Editor. You will find several letters expressing appreciation for the summer activities that are free of the political axe grinding that Lloyd offers.

It is true that Lloyd and I have differences in what we would like to see downtown. It is also true that we have many common goals and desires for downtown Columbia. Keep in mind that Lloyd is firmly in the increase Town Center density camp. As recently as last October, Lloyd’s wife (State Delegate Liz Bobo) stated just before the November election that approximately 3000 additional residences in Town Center would be acceptable (Baltimore Sun, October 15, 2006, “Bringing Town Center into Focus”). So I am a little unclear as to who you think is advocating for zero increased density.

If, in your 4th grade parlance, you are asking for my opinion on the “health” of Town Center, I would be happy to provide my thoughts.

No, I do not believe Town Center is dead, nor on life support. That being said, it could be a whole lot healthier. The current auto-dominated design prevents greater use by people.

Major portions of Town Center are segregated from each other by large surface parking lots that cater to automobile convenience and discourage pedestrian activity. Currently, Little Patuxent Parkway, a little used street during the morning hours, becomes choked with cars each afternoon for people who don’t live in downtown (and I would also guess, do not live in Columbia) and use it as a bypass around Rt 29 and Rt 32 during the evening rush. This means that most people in Town Center on any given day experience it solely through their windshields (now that’s vibrant!).

The large surface parking prevalent throughout Town Center also presents environmental challenges regarding impervious surfaces and storm water runoff. Without change, Lake Kittamaquandi and the Little Patuxent River water quality will continue to be poor.

These effects amount to a (relatively) small population that frequents the lakefront area on any given day or night. As an example, my wife and I were at the lakefront two Saturdays ago. A jazz band was playing on the amphitheater stage, and there were probably 200 people on the lawn listening. We checked with outdoor Clydes for a table, we were told there was a 45-minute wait. We declined and strolled down to Tomato Palace. The place was half empty. We continued on to Jesse Wong’s, there were only three tables occupied in the whole restaurant. So is your idea of vibrant, thriving, alive, and happening is one restaurant overbooked, one half full, and one almost empty, on a Saturday night, during the summer?

Here is an interesting yardstick to apply. As a town of 100,000 people, we have 11 restaurants (excluding the mall food court) in Town Center (and only one that has live acts play) and two coffee shops. One would think that each would be overwhelmed with people (at just over 9000 people per downtown restaurant), but this is not the case. Without a comprehensive plan to elevate the pedestrian (and by pedestrian, I mean people) over the automobile, Town Center will wallow in its current stunted status.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous, 24 July, 2007 22:10

Is name calling your idea of intelligent debate? Do you realize that by calling Bill a “twit” you are guilty of “twitting,” and by me “calling” you on that, I am now a twitter too? At this rate we will all be twits or twitting in this twittification of Columbia!!

American Heritage Dictionary
twit (twĭt) Pronunciation Key
tr.v. twit•ted, twit•ting, twits

To taunt, ridicule, or tease, especially for embarrassing mistakes or faults. See Synonyms at ridicule.
1.The act or an instance of twitting.
2. A reproach, gibe, or taunt.
3. Slang A foolishly annoying person."

All kidding aside, Bill is not a “twit.” If you, dear anonymous, had any idea how many thankless hours he has spent for the betterment of Columbia, behind the scenes, in unpaid, tedious roles, you would be thanking him instead. In terms of sheer intelligence if Columbia were a jungle with a clear cut food chain, most of us would be Bill’s lunch by now.

All twitted out,
Happy Wednesday to All…

Anonymous said...

With all due repsect to you bill - your evidence of a lack of vitality is not solid in my opinion. Town Center is not just the lakefront area or the 3 restaurants along the lakefront. What about The Mall, the movie theaters, and other restaurants?

I felt that you were being overly critical of the letter writers. The have every right to voice their opinion. And, so what if some parade attendees waved signs at Ulman. What's wrong with that? If the signs said "We love you Ken" would you be griping about that?

True, Town Center is auto dependent. But, then so are just about every city in the world. Redesigning the layout will not end mankind's addiction to the car, as much as we all may wish for that to be the case.

I agree that maybe more acitivities or cultural functions/attractions would be nice. I like mini concerts as much as the next person. Is a huge density increase necessary to accomplish that? I would say no.

Would a small density increase be ok - yes/maybe depending on and where the development would go. I would not advocate the proposed grid road netwrok currently described in the draft Master Plan.

B. Santos said...

Anon 08:42,

First off, let me thank you for your comments. It is always a pleasure to read constructive criticism and differences in opinion. Let us continue this discussion.

With respect to my “evidence of a lack of vitality,” I believe you are correct. However, my personal experience two weekends ago were not intended to be a complete summation of the state of Town Center. I was merely responding to an earlier commenter (Anon 22:10), who stated “Go to Town Center on any weekday during the summer, or any weeknight or weekend not during the summer, and you'll find plenty of activity and economic vitality.” I intended it to only be a data point. Fellow blogger Jessie Newburn provides another data point in her comment. This data is far from being conclusive, but it does further the discussion from the general “on any weeknight” to more specific known experiences. I wish to stress that yes, this information in anecdotal; but until a detailed study is commissioned (Columbia Association, are you listening?), the anecdotal may be the best we have at this time.

I agree that Town Center is more than just the lakefront and the four restaurants located adjacent to the lake. I had indicated this with my reference to the eleven restaurants in downtown (Clyde’s, Tomato Palace, Jessie Wong’s, Sushi Sono, That’s Amore, PF Changs, Pizzaria Uno’s, Chammps, Cheesecake Factory, Copelands, and the Waterside in the Sheraton Hotel…did I miss any?). To be honest, I do believe there is a certain vitality in the vicinity of the AMC Cinemas/LL Bean corridor. I have been in that area many times and witnessed sidewalks full of people. People dining inside and outside on the sidewalk. Folks of all ages interacting with the rocks at LL Bean and those stone/cement columns between Cheesecake Factory and AMC.

Those columns are especially interesting to me. When I first encountered them, it was on a cold day. They seemed to be out of place to me. They looked unfinished, as if we are waiting for something to be added to the structure. At the time I thought to myself, “What a poor design for public art.” Over the years, I have come to see them in a different light. People interact with the columns: They climb on them, lean on them, chase each other around them. I still don’t find them to be striking in any way, but I now see some purpose in their existence. In the end, there is a voice in the back of my head that keeps saying “Hey, the movies and restaurants do provide a place for people to interact and socialize, but isn’t this just a strip mall?”

Concerning my objection to Lloyd Knowles’ and Rebecca Johnson’s letters, yes I have been critical. I believe it was important to point out that Lloyd and Rebecca were using community (local and national) events to further their agenda. It’s just my opinion, and I felt it was important to call them on it. Their silence on the subject can only make one wonder if they agree or disagree.

Moving on, the dominance of the automobile in downtown Columbia is striking. Honestly, when I look at an aerial/satellite image of downtown Columbia, the amount of land dedicated to the automobile (roadways, gravel and asphalt parking lots) appears to me to be about equal to the open space and buildings combined. That sends a clear picture of present day priorities. The car is king, and man and nature are left to fill in the rest of the landscape. This is my core concern. It follows that if downtown Columbia is to be a vibrant, exciting place, the car’s role must be diminished, significantly. To me, that means narrow the roads and put the parking either underground or in structured units. During the Charrette, one of the most striking slides shown was the distance from the AMC Cinema to the lakefront was the same distance from one end of Ellicott City Main Street to the other. The message was clear, give people the priority over the car, and that distance is easy to traverse. Currently in downtown Columbia the car dominates, and I would imagine few people would walk from the movies to the lake.

Where I think I may differ with some is what to do after the automobile becomes subordinate. I would favor using the space for people to live, work, and recreate. We do have an abundance of open space in Town Center (and let’s all take a breath and remind ourselves that other than a driveway easement, no one has ever proposed taking open space for development), and I think we need to improve/realign some of the open space to allow for them to function more effectively as wildlife corridors. Beyond that, I think downtown should be used to encourage people to live and work in this county. Downtown should also serve as a center within the county for people to go for a variety of employment, dining, cultural, and recreational purposes.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I spent *three* hours at the Cheesecake Factory last month, start to finish, waiting with throngs outside, then waiting inside, then having an ok meal. The term "vitality" didn't come to mind waiting that long to eat. Other terms like overcrowded, however, did. As bad an experience as it was, it was still better than the Cheesecake Factory a few years ago at the Inner Harbor. It was even more crowded, resulting in a 45 minute wait just to be served a 2/3 full milkshake. Is that the kind of experience we want to build into Town Center with more density?

Actually, open space has been taken in Columbia for more than just a driveway easement. When the previous grocery store left Harper's Choice Village Center, Safeway wouldn't occupy the village center unless they were allowed to have a larger store, requiring CA to give up a considerable portion of open space behind the village center where the bigger Safeway was then built. Another Columbia example is Fairway Hills Golf Course. Far less open space exists there now with the many condos, parking lots, and roads serving them than existed previously when it was solely Allview Golf Course. Numerous roads, parking lots, and buildings are also planned to be added to the Blandair Regional Park, previously a 300-acre farm in Oakland Mills. High school expansions in Columbia (Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills) both resulted in less open space as a result of enlarged buildings and expanded parking lots. And, just prior to the renewed activity to develop the Crescent property, the State Highway Administration reopened South Entrance Road to Route 29, consuming open space in a stream buffer no less and putting one more significant and dangerous barrier in this wildlife movement corridor.

Correct me if I am wrong, but don't the current proposals consume some CA space along Little Patuxent Parkway in Town Center as part of the "expanded urban fabric" to put storefronts and roadside parking along the then poorly-named "parkway"? And don't the proposal maps also show a road being added across open space, running from South Entrance Road at Toby's Dinner Theatre, between the river and the condos, and then over to the Rouse Building? And expanding Wincopin Circle into Wincopin Street, extending it south through Hug Statue Park to the Rouse Building lot?

I am very interested to hear your ideas on improving/realigning open space areas to allow them to function more effectively as wildlife movement corridors. Did you happen to read today's (7/26) Examiner story (p. 5), briefly detailing the 10-mile long sewer expansion being considered by the County that will involve significantly disturbing central and East Columbia's primary wildlife movement corridor, the Little Patuxent River area? Just the soil study for this project will take six months. Looks like we're getting ready to put a lot more, ahem, stuff into the Bay and tearing a 10-mile gash through this wildlife area in the process. Is this green? If we want to really get there, we should look at requiring additional capacity to be met by upstream pyrolysis plants, like that proposed for a large scale green project in Vancouver, then essentially avoiding any additional effluent into the Bay.

Your aerial observations are correct - the amount of land dedicated to the mobile and stationary automobile is massive. We neither have to expand such dead use of land nor do we have to maintain even the current footprint. Evan's site has a good discussion of viable transportation options that he occasionally links back to. Such choices could result in significant reclamation of road areas, restoration of much of those areas to wildlife corridors, and provide the people-over-cars solution you mention. It would be a great juxaposition to see Columbia evolve beyond its car reliance, contrasting its birth from affordable rural land suddenly being put within commutable reach of multiple major employment centers as a result of the Defense Highway System (I-95 and I-70).

It's a shame no such detail is part of the current proposals, instead just pretty much "add more people, add more buildings, add more roads".

Anonymous said...

Don't some of the current proposals also call for development of parts of Symphony Woods, too, for:
- adding a large traffic circle at the intersection of South Entrance Road and Little Patuxent Parkway with a parking garage underneath,
- building a number of cultural attractions along South Entrance Road,
- and building a number of structures even more interior to Symphony Woods, including fountains, paved walkways, and an ice rink?

Such cultural attractions along South Entrance Road would most likely require a combination of widening South Entrance Road and addition of other paved surfaces. South Entrance Road's use as a means to get to/from Route 29 would be fouled by a combination of turn lanes, traffic lights, and entrances/exits to these attractions or the parking garage.

Why in the world does Symphony Woods need a fountain? Town Center certainly already has water features throughout, including the lake, the river, the fountain at lakefront, the pond and fountain behind the college, the numerous water features inside and outside the Mall and near adjacent office buildings, and the pond in Symphony Woods?

An ice rink would most likely be accompanied by a structure for restrooms, too.

The fountains, the artificial lighting for all these structures, and any rink refrigeration all will take electricity, too, about 80% of which around here comes from burning coal.

That sure sounds like taking open space for development to me, causing loss of natural habitat and creation of noise pollution, light pollution, and more dead, impermeable surface begetting more stormwater runoff.

If there is a need for additional parking in Town Center, it makes far more sense to leave natural areas natural and instead redesign existing surface parking lots at the Mall to have underground parking, topping them with surface level green roofs which would facilitate the pedestrian-friendly Town Center for which many are in favor. Putting an ice rink in front of L.L. Bean on top of such a garage would seem a much better location as well.

An even more sensible path forward would plan for replacing the need for most parking in Town Center altogether, providing 21st century transportation solutions that could deliver people directly into or to the doorsteps of Town Center's Mall, office buildings, and open space areas.

B. Santos said...

Anon 12:03,

I can only hope to provide some insight here. We must first start with some definition of the boundaries of Symphony Woods. As far as I know, Symphony Woods is approximately 26 acres in size, designated as open space in the New Town Zoning District, and is owned by the Columbia Association. Most of the property behind Symphony Woods (the gravel parking lots for Merriwheather Post) are owned by General Growth Properties. This area has been zoned as commercial for quite some time.

With regard to “some” proposals, I am aware of only two proposals: the County Draft Master Plan and the CoFoCoDo position paper. The CoFoCoDo position paper speaks of the “large traffic circle at Little Patuxent Parkway/South Entrance Road. It also indicates a large parking garage should be placed beneath the circle. I am not aware of anyone outside of CoFoCoDo that takes this seriously. In fact, Alan Klein has said time and again that their position paper is merely a collection of “recommendations,” so how seriously can the idea be taken?

With respect to cultural attractions along South Entrance Road, I am not aware of any such proposal. Anon12:03, if you could provide more detail, it would be much appreciated.

Concerning the interior of Symphony Woods, ultimately, it will be CA’s call as to what happens there. The best place to find information about this is in CA’s downtown taskforce charter. At one time, a draft was available on the CA website, but I have not checked for it in awhile. As I recall, the charter language did discuss keeping Symphony Woods a “wooded” environment. Other sources that I am aware of are some drawings created by the Design Collective as part of the Charrette. These drawings depicted Symphony woods as more grassy than wooded, and had a one or two small gazebo/pavilions that currently do not exist. The last source for Symphony Woods were County Executive Ken Ulman’s remarks just prior the election. I am not certain as to the exact words, but I believe he stated that he would like to see Symphony Woods contain “playground equipment shaped like instuments.”

On improvements to South Entrance Road: I do not believe South Entrance Road will require much improvement. It is my recollection that South Entrance Road was one of the major arteries that carried traffic into downtown during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Only a traffic study will provide any real insight, but I do remember South Entrance Road did allow a large volume of traffic flow many years ago.

I also do not believe the interchange with Rt. 29 and South Entrance Road will change any time soon. My reasoning is as follows: To place a new interchange at that intersection will require the State of Maryland to become involved. There is no provision in the Baltimore Metropolitan Council of Government’s “35 year transit outlook” for an upgrade. The PG/Montgomery Inter-County Connector project is sucking up all available road funds for many years into the future.

With respect to your statements about future power requirements within Symphony Woods. I believe your concerns are a bit overstated. The amount of power required to run a fountain pump, lights, and possibly a seasonal ice rink is incredibly small when considering the other proposed development in downtown Columbia. Conservation is important these days, but I do not think we are getting down to splitting kilowatts.

Keep in mind that the Columbia Association has a stated policy that all new buildings (and older building renovations) will include green building elements. So if CA wants to put a fountain in Symphony Woods, they will most likely try to find the most efficient system available. Something like powering lights with a solar panel/battery system, or purchasing the power for the ice rink from a green energy source.

That is an important thing to keep in mind. In the current deregulated energy market in Maryland, CA could purchase their power from completely green/renewable sources. The local power plant makeup has little to do with the power anyone buys. Keep in mind that green/renewable will cost a quite a bit more than BGE, but if you feel strongly about it, you can bypass the coal.

Your statement about the “taking of open space” provides yet another reminder that we all need to make sure we are using the same terms. In New Town, open space does not equate to green space. Open space also includes such things as parking lots, paths, pools, and schools (among other things). In fact, fellow Running Brook residents Tom and Ginger Scott have been advocating for a map that shows what is “open space” and what is “green space.” They have been asking for quite a while and I support them in their effort.

Clearly, a path system in Symphony Woods is not going to significantly increase the impervious surfaces in Town Center. In fact, the runoff could be only a few feet along the path. As I mentioned before, CA has committed to building green, maybe they use permeable pavers to construct any paths in Symphony Woods. A fountain will not cause any storm water runoff because it will catch the rain and use it in its system.

In addition, I believe your concerns about noise and light pollution are a bit overstated. The addition of a few lights next to a concert venue that is projecting to have 50+ events a year will not increase the noise or light pollution significantly.

Anon, I agree with the idea of underground and structured parking. I also think that green buildings should be placed on top of those parking structures.

I also like your ideas regarding transit. I believe regular Saturday bus service from the village centers to the mall, from say 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM should start immediately. It seems to me that is the real crunch time for shoppers/walkers. I believe this service could be used as a “demonstrate your commitment” project. If everyone that I have heard/read over the last six months is truly committed to transit into and out of downtown, let them show it. I am certain that we could have a packed mall and half empty parking lots if people really “walked the walk.”

Anonymous said...

Yes, all of those (Mr. Ulman, CA, the Coalition, the Charette, the draft Master Plan) were among the sources for the proposals referenced.

From a Baltimore Sun article, July 10th, 2007, entitled "It's perfect, now change, Columbia residents say":
"The draft master plan that emerged from the charrette envisioned up to 5,000 new housing units in Town Center, office buildings with ground-floor cafes and entertainment venues and a grand park carved out of Symphony Woods, which surrounds Merriweather Post Pavilion."

I interpret "carved out of Symphony Woods" to mean literally that - Symphony Woods, not the parking lot for Merriweather. Such carving would, sadly, result not in a grander park, but a smaller one. A nibble here, a nibble there, and the greenspace and open space is consumed.

I still find it ironic to hear undeveloped areas referred to as "open space" when the complex ecosystems that occupy them are quite the opposite of empty, open spaces. I also find it ironic to refer to areas such as the entirety of school properties as "open space". Subtract the school building and the school parking lot and I'll agree the rest is "open space", but the built areas aren't open - they are truly developed. Affirmingly, when designing a subdivision, County DPZ does not allow counting such road areas, parking areas, or structures as "open space".

I believe maps were also created showing a promenade of some sort extending south from the Mall area and into Symphony Woods, providing a longer vista with some structures being built within Symphony Woods serving as focal points at the end of the vista. Such a clearing of Symphony Woods to provide a longer vista and to place these focal point structures therein certainly seems to be taking open space for the enhancement of sightlines from development at the other end of the promenade. If development value is to be gained from extending such a vista, it should be extended towards the Mall, not by clearing and building structures in a portion of Symphony Woods.

There was also a diagram from the charette that indicated a future Metro rail line would oddly pretty much sit on top of the Little Patuxent River coming into Town Center and stop near the Rouse Building, again an example of green space being consumed by development. I hope you won't split hairs on that, too, saying transportation infrastructure doesn't count because it isn't actually development.

There was also some discussion of a bus terminal being put somewhere near South Entrance Road and Route 29, too. Currently, the Mall serves as the County's bus transit hub for good reason. Where's the logic in relocating such a hub to a bus terminal remote from people, employment, and parking and into what is part of the Little Patuxent River greenway?

Your assertions that South Entrance Road won't change anytime soon because the InterCounty Connector has the State Highway budget tied up for years isn't quite accurate either. State Highway obviously funds multiple projects annually and when there's an opportunity to do a project that will both alleviate congestion and benefit road construction interests, funding happens. In this case, the congestion would be from the significantly increased population current proposals would add to Town Center. What's the total population increase Town Center could see from the fulfillment of the 2,200 outstanding residences yet to be built under existing zoning and the 5,500 proposed additional residences on top of that? Perhaps 20,000 people? Such an increase would certainly exceed Broken Land's and 175's capacity for additional traffic, resulting in expanding South Entrance Road and creating an upgraded interchange at Route 29.

Such a shame when Broken Land Parkway, with its interchange unfortunately sited on top of the Little Patuxent River, was supposed to completely eliminate the need for South Entrance Road. Instead, current proposals would have us then wind up with two such interchanges atop the Little Patuxent River.

Regarding the effects of placing lighting in Symphony Woods, contrasting it with a 50+ event/year concert schedule is irrelevant. This lighting would extend further into Symphony Woods, probably be designed primarily for ornamentation rather than discrete functionality, and would be, most likely, year round and around the clock, robbing the wildlife therein of the natural cycle of illumination. I'm sure you understand the numerous effects such unnecessary and improper nighttime illumination in parks has on ecosystem balances and viabilities.

My point in mentioning these examples around Columbia, within Town Center, and even within Symphony Woods was to object to your statement "... let’s all take a breath and remind ourselves that other than a driveway easement, no one has ever proposed taking open space for development". Such proposals have indeed happened - repeatedly.

I, too, would like to see your idea of an enhanced Saturday daytime bus schedule tried. It would be a great way for people who don't normally have the opportunity to use the bus to try it out. I'd also like to see Howard Transit buses add bike racks to their fronts (if they don't already have them). I see these racks on many other municipalities buses and it would allow many who aren't within walking distance of a bus stop to use the bus.