So Kimco has unveiled it's plan for the Wilde Lake Village Center. It's a plan that includes about 200 higher-end apartments, a 27,000 food store that could be a home for an expanded David's Natural Market (MM's favorite site for flaxseed meal), and no traditional chain grocery store or gas station.
For those of you who forget, don't know, or are simply too ignorant to acknowledge it (looking at YOU, Coalition for Columbia's Downtown!) Columbia's village centers are examples of mixed use development-- from the 1960s. They consisted of retail with higher-density house located nearby in order to create the motif of a "village". Perhaps the CCR from Oakland Mills would relate to this more if I referred to it instead as a "shire". (I dare ANYONE to get that one!)
I thank Kimco for putting a plan out there that updates the village center concept as a mixed use-based destination for the 2010s. Thank them for wanting to bring about 500 more Columbians into Wilde Lake to occupy the new housing. And I thank them for wanting to preserve, indeed play upon the unique characteristics of village centers. People won't make a village center a destination to go to Giant or Safeway. But a unique retail component-- that is worthwhile and worthy of being a destination.
I am looking forward to seeing and hearing the "listening sessions" on the plan unfold. In fact, I may just make it over there this evening!
I've been following this from the beginning, so now that it's reached it's end, that is worth covering too.
This article gives the particulars: 325 homes to be built over 221 acres of the 892-acre property; 36 acres to be donated for the expansion of Kiwanis-Wallas Park.
The amount of development isn't exactly high-density and over 500 acres of the property will be placed into agricultural preservation. As I've written before, I can understand the concerns of traffic, and more importantly, of extending water and sewer service to the property. But I support this development.
So here comes the news that due to increased professional responsibilities, GOP County Council candidate in District 2 Anthony Jordan has decided to quit the race; unfortunately, after the local Republican Party can fill the seat for the primary election. Well, that sucks for him.
In his brief candidacy, I will note that Jordan believed in term limits. Apparently he has decided to limit his own terms at zero.
When I ran for the House of Delegates in 1998, I was 30-31 years old, I had a child born four months before the election, and my wife lost her father five months before the election. None of these things made me want to give up, although I did take what I felt was the appropriate time to deal with each situation.
I support Calvin Ball and I think he would've been a shoo-in for re-election regardless, but I do think Jordan had a responsibility to those who supported him to see this through. I will tell you first-hand that running for office is a uniquely challenging, demanding and fun experience. I understand his personal concerns, but Anthony is denying himself an experience he'll remember for the rest of his life-- win or lose.
I was out of town when the recent news article about the diversity-- or rather, lack thereof-- in Columbia's civic leadership organizations appears. I was going to let the entire topic go undiscussed-- but, since this issue sticks in my craw, I am indeed going to comment!
First, I agree that Columbia's leadership organizations-- the CA Board and the village boards, are underrepresented in a number of ways. To be exact, I count three ways:
One, Columbia's leadership is too white. I believe this was the general thrust of the original article. I agree. With increasing black, Hispanic and Asian populations in Columbia it is appropriate for those ethnic groups to have more of a seat at the table.
Two Columbia's leadership is too old. Columbia's byzantine system of committees, subcommittees, task forces and working groups make it hard for working people to be involved. However, people who are advanced in their careers, successfully self-employed, or retired have much more time and therefore have much more ability to serve. And serve they do.
Third, Columbia's leadership is too damn well off. If you're an affluent, educated white person in Columbia-- dammit, you've got a voice in Columbia affairs. But if you're not-- wow, you've got problems. Again, this is a time issue-- people who can afford to spend their time in civic affairs, so do. People who can't, don't.
OK, so what's the solution?
First is to make optimal use of the CA and village websites. Most Columbians have use of the Internet, and it's accessible to everyone through public sources such as the Howard County Library. CA Committee, CA Board, and village board meetings should be webcast and for some meetings, such as CA Board meetings, means for residents to be interactive with the board members during the meetings should be explored.
Second, better outreach to the non-English speaking population. If every village doesn't have it's organic documents available in at least Spanish in addition to English-- shame on them. They should. And so should CA. I would also suggest translation into Korean, Chinese, possibly Thai and French.
Third, diversify CA and village staffs. It occurs to me that most CA executives and village managers are white, primary English speakers. CA and the villages should strive to hire candidates with a desire, and preferably experience, in serving diverse communities.
Are the above ideas a panacea? Heck no. But it's better than nothing.
This is a bit delayed in being written, but I did want to acknowledge the passing of former Oakland Mills and Marriotts Ridge High School football coach Kev Hovet, after a battle with cancer.
Unfortunately, Ken left Oakland Mills several years before my son started there. A former football standout at Oakland Mills himself, Ken left a promising career behind as an attorney in order to, among other things, return to his alma mater and coach.
The circumstances of how Ken and others at Oakland Mills resigned their positions remain kind of controversial, and to me, frankly, the people who resigned never should have had to resign. But I won't make comment of that here because to be honest, I don't want to divert from the point of this post.
His untimely passing should be a lesson to all of us to go out and enjoy life to its fullest extent, because you never know when your gifts will be taken from you.
This next sentence may be the one that finally leads to my turning in my decoder ring. 53 Beers on Tap endorses Mary Kay Sigaty in the Democratic Primary in Howard County Council District 4.
I'll fully disclose at the outset: I didn't start out being a fan of Mary Kay. Although likable, decent, and always nice to me, my personal view towards her was colored by my others surrounding her. Of that I will say nothing more, because it's 1) personal and 2) water under the bridge.
So when Mary Kay started making the community rounds and started wanting people to support her-- well, obviously I was far from the first to jump on board. I watched, but didn't participate in, her campaigns for the Wilde Lake Village Board, and then for the Howard County School Board.
It was during Mary Kay's time on the School Board that I started to take note of her style and her approach. Here was someone who was solution-oriented, who was practical, and who sought to appeal always to the greater good-- all qualities I admire. While I didn't support her when she ran against Ken Ulman for County Council, I happily did four years later.
And to be honest, I couldn't be happier with the result. The approach I saw on the School Board served her well on the County Council, and I discovered in Mary Kay Sigaty a quality I hadn't quite noticed before: a strong work ethic. I'm sure it had always been there, but it was never more apparent than during all the community meetings she held and attended surrounding the development of the legislation for downtown Columbia's redevelopment plan. It was quite an achievement and rightfully attributable to her efforts. For the quality of her service to her constituents, she deserves to be returned to office.
I wanted to get that out of the way before commenting on her opponent, Alan Klein, because her endorsement is totally independent of Mr. Klein's candidacy. So I have, so here I go.
I'd like to understand exactly why Alan Klein is running for this office. We know he has one issue: he is against the redevelopment of downtown. What would Alan Klein do better than Mary Kay Sigaty in providing county services; in working with county teachers, police, and fire employees; in working with the state to get our fair share for schools and roads and other capital projects; and in bringing business to Howard County?
I've heard Alan speak and I've heard none of this. I've heard about his activist history, which is impressive, and I've heard about his involvement in the Coalition for Columbia's Downtown, which is not impressive. In fact, it's offensive as far as I am concerned.
And to that topic-- I have heard that Alan Klein has a vision for Columbia's downtown. What exactly is that? Because I've heard him speak at several community meetings and he has yet to articulate this. He does, however, appear to excel at complaining. I guess that's a common theme among the anti-redevelopment crowd.
It's dandy that Alan sang folk songs at his campaign kick-off; however his answers are blowin' in the wind, away from him apparently. He needs to raise his campaign up two steps for it to be mediocre. He is welcome and free to run for this office, of course; however he must state a compelling case for his election, and he doesn't appear capable of achieving that.
Wow. These two articles almost back to back blew me away.
First, on July 10th this article appeared in the Sun, about how Days' End Horse Rescue in Woodbine are giving prison inmates an opportunity to work on caring for the horses-- and work alongside organizational volunteers, apparently as happens at other places throughout the state.
Then, four days later, this article appears announcing the termination (well, at least the suspension) of the project. There were complaints from among residents and other volunteers; residents who fear that the inmates would escape and flee through western Howard County, and volunteers who held concerns about working alongside inmates. Many of these volunteers are under 18 and so their parents also became concerned.
OK, so I have two teenagers (OK, one's 12, but she may as well be!) and I know I'd at least like to be told if prison inmates were coming to volunteer at a place where my kids would be. So I do think the State screwed one up here. And although they say the program will eventually be reinstated once concerns are addressed... I'm thinking it probably won't be. Which is a shame.
But I also think it was a bit irresponsible of local officials like Warren Miller and Gail Bates to not even give the State a chance to explain itself. From the two articles it seems that this is not a program where violent offenders, poorly-behaved inmates, or inmates who would be considered an escape risk would be placed in this program. Although I would bring a healthy dose of skepticism to the table, I know I would at least listen to what they had to say.
OK, so here's the article in the Sun about GGP's emergence from bankruptcy as two companies. One, General Growth, will own Columbia Mall, among other local properties. The other, which will include Columbia among it's holdings, will be named..... wait for it...... SPINCO????
What the.... Spinco? What, were the following taken:
Planners R Us?
Cul de Sac World?
The Architectural Puzzle People?
Seriously-- I get why the reorganization is taking the form it is. It makes a good bit of sense. And I understand, as the article says, that "Spinco" is just a placeholder name. Really, when GGP fully emerges from bankruptcy, Columbia won't be owned by a company with the name of a defunct Motown record label.
Good Lord, it'd better be!
I'm not going to bother sharing yet another link to an article touting Money Magazine's naming the Columbia/Ellicott City area the #2 best place to live in the country. If you haven't read an article or haven't found it online yet, or had it e-mailed to you, or read it in the fishwrap, or learned about via smoke signal...you have big problems.
But your problems would be nothing compared to the problems of the opponents to redevelopment of Columbia's downtown. Last week on a local organization's listserve, which is often populated by the anti-progress misanthropes, one such misanthrope said that the ranking did nothing but serve to strengthen the case against redevelopment. Wha-wha-wha????
So the logic here is that since Columbia (she forgot to note "Columbia/Ellicott City", but we'll let that go for the moment) is already the #2 place to live without any redevelopment, why mess with near perfection? That was just blood in the water for the anti-development piranha, who used the opportunity not simply to give their misanthropic muse a round of huzzahs, but to, through their own keyboard and illogical argument skills, beat into a paste any rational person who didn't agree that county government is corrupt, that everyone in elected and appointed office in the county needs to be thrown out, and the Howard County is in the pocket of the development community.
Sadly, for the misanthropes...they are wrong. Dead wrong. I'm just not going to go into their little playground to make that case.
This ranking is all the more reason to redevelop Columbia's downtown, and to do it right. First off, Columbia/ Ellicott City has been rising in the rankings despite the aging infrastructure in Columbia and uncertainty about the area's future; having concrete plans in case and having projects start to become realized will do nothing but strengthen the area's position. And as such, there will be attractions and incentives for businesses to come to Howard County. And for Howard County to mean business-- to make itself the location of desire for people to live, work and play-- it has to be willing to be visionary, yet also pragmatic. Creative, yet also practical. And it has to be this in all it's endeavors, not just in land use, but in provision of services, be they libraries, schools, the community college, the hospital, the fire department, police department, etc.
In other words, being highly-ranked comes with it a high standard that one must maintain and high expectations that must be met and exceeded. This is not the time to simply sit back and say "everything's OK." Just the opposite; this is the time for action and for truly visionary thought!