06 October 2008

Forward Moving

Last Wednesday, the folks from General Growth Properties arrived at the CA boardroom to discuss downtown Columbia. Based on an agenda posted on the Columbia Association website, the topic of discussion was to be Symphony Woods. Upon arriving in the boardroom, it was clear that much more was going on. Easels were erected, festooned with large placards depicting Symphony Woods and other parts of downtown Columbia. A table had been placed in front of the CA Board of Directors “U-Shaped” dias, and chairs in the front row we reserved.

Minutes after the meeting began, it was clear that the 45 people in the audience were in for much more than a discussion of Symphony Woods. That afternoon, the ZRA for downtown Columbia had been submitted to the Howard County Government. Not only was Greg Hamm of GGP in attendance, but also Alan Ward (Sasaki and Associates) and Keith Bowers (Biohabitats).

Greg Hamm put out the larger points regarding the downtown plan, followed up by short presentations by Mr. Ward and Mr. Bowers. In the end, much of the evening did focus on Symphony Woods, but the announcement brought other aspects of downtown development in the discussion.

Much of this has been captured over on Wordbones blog.

A few points of which I would like to expand upon.

CA Board member Evan Coren (KC) and his mother, Ann Coren (OB Village Board member, but speaking as a resident) both displayed a passion for wildlife (both flora and fauna) and asked very good questions. In my opinion, Keith Bowers demonstrated a deep understanding of the issues and provided quality responses to their questions. It is clear that GGP and Biohabitats have clearly done their homework on issues regarding Symphony Woods.

A concern regarding the Lake Kittamaquandi lakefront area, first brought up by CA Board member Cindy Coyle (HC), was raised a few times.

Oakland Mills resident Barbara Russell spoke during resident speakout, which (for a change) was done after the presentation. Barbara informed the board that if Columbia had been built as first proposed, two current members of the CA Board members from Dorsey Search and River Hill would not be sitting at the table. I suppose Barbara should take solace in the fact that Dorsey Search and River Hill were there because without their residents (and also the residents of the Kendall Ridge section of Long Reach), Columbia would need downtown residents to get to the proposed population of 100,000.

Liz Bobo was in the audience, and apparently left before the meeting ended.

Joel Yesley, speaking for the Alliance for a Better Columbia, indicated that the County has insisted that Symphony Woods be maintained in its current, pristine state. I need to take exception to this charge.

Howard County’s 2000 General Plan discusses downtown Columbia on pages 177-178. On these pages, you will find the following references to Symphony Woods:

Open Space. Enhance Downtown open space, such as the edges of Lake Kittamaqundi and Symphony Woods, to promote enjoyment by the growing numbers of Downtown residents and visitors.

Symphony Woods. Encourage measures that enhance Symphony Woods as an attractive, inviting open space resource for families and individuals to enjoy natural beauty within the urban setting.

It appears that the actual text calls for enhancing Symphony Woods, not maintaining a pristine state. As far as pristine is concerned, the GGP report on Symphony Woods and adjacent properties shows that invasive species have degraded the area.


Anonymous said...

Clearing swaths of healthy, mature trees and their canopies, stream buffer, and the forest floor to build paved highway access roads, paved parking pads for a couple more backstage trailers at Merriweather that will then only be used a small fraction of the year, and multiple large buildings on the Symphony Woods side of Little Patuxent Parkway" doesn't equate to enhancing "Symphony Woods as an attractive, inviting open space resource for families and individuals to enjoy natural beauty".

Nor does it equate to Rouse's identification of Columbia's open spaces as being permanent, that very designation chosen by the County for inclusion in the County's own Preliminary Draft Columbia Downtown Master Plan.

And that same DPZ Preliminary Draft Columbia Master Plan notes that a majority of the 36 working tables at the 2005 Charrette's Visioning Session did not identify "Improving Activities and Events in Symphony Woods" as being a preferred idea.

Tom said...

All of the documents Greg Hamm gave to the County can be found on the
County DPZ website http://www.howardcountymd.gov/CountyCouncil/CC_ZoningRegulationAmendments.htm

(Scroll down to ZRA 113, the last item on the page.)

ZRA 113 application
Letter from Greg Hamm to the County
General Plan Amendment
Adequate Public Facilities Amendment
Sustainability Framework
Merriweather and Crescent Environmental Enhancements Study
Design Guidelines
Generalized Traffic Study and Technical Appendix
Best Management Practices for Symphony Stream and Lake Kittamaqundi Watershedthe Howard