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November 07, 2013


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Josh Friedman

I think you hit the nail on the head by saying you have to give something to get something. If the county successfully converts the Verona apartments into more low income housing, what happens next? Right or wrong, it is a simple fact that communities that have more low income units have a more difficult time maintaining quality businesses, and preserving other aspects of a quality life, i.e. clean, vandalism-free open space, and neighborhoods free of crime and loitering. So what will happen if Oakland Mills loses is grocery store, the same way Wilde Lake and Long Reach have? What happens when, due to under use, CA once again proposes closing pools? Will additional police resources be allocated to communities that take on more low income housing? How about money to clean up vandalism? If the county wants to put low-income housing in Oakland Mills, fine, but the county, and collectively all of us, should be giving something to the communities that take on this obligation on our behalf. Baltimore City owns hotels, why couldn't the county own a grocery store in a village that loses theirs to ensure everyone continue to have access to quality food shopping? Is the county willing to divert police resources to ensure that these neighborhoods are not forced to wait in excess of 30 minutes for assistance? Will the codes that govern Sec 8, specifically the regulation calling for eviction for criminal activity be enforced? If The people of Oakland Mills are right to demand assurances from the county, and by extension CA, that maintaining a high quality of life with the full compliment of amenities will be a top priority.


MM -- through what instrument is the Oakland Mills Master Plan legally enforceable? Also, the use of only percentages strikes me as lazy. Could you give actual numbers in addition to the percentages? It would help clarify the context here.

Marshmallow Man

Compass Guy asks and I provide!


Sorry I don't have a more facile means of getting this out.

As to legal enforceability, my understanding is that now that the OM Master Plan is in place (as it has been since 2007), that if, say, someone wanted to build a cement plant at the village center, and they were rejected and said cement plant developers wanted to sue, that suit would have no legal basis due to the fact that the use isn't congruent with what's described in the master plan.


MM - I think you are not quite right on the master plan document. The Village Center Master Plan is a document that a Columbia Village may (or may not) author in conjunction with village center development. It is an advisory document that, when village center development occurs, is sent to the planning board for consideration during the zoning process. It does not extend to the entire village. In the example you give, the legal basis for land use lies within the New Town Zoning, and the Final Development Plan for that portion of the New Town Zoning area. If your position is correct, and the Oakland Mills Master Plan supersedes the zoning, that would be a very unusual case in which the zoning takes a back seat to a private corporation.

I have to also say that this is not a decision between the existing apartment building and a cement plant. It is the purchase of an apartment building, with the possible future new building a decade out. The land use does not change.

Harry Schwarz

You are gifts to humanity, MM and Compass Guy! MM proposes a great solution. And I'm always glad when someone like Compass Guy is in the room that's smarter than everyone else. Question: Oakland Mills seems a community that needs an enforceable master plan, more than zoning. Is there a way to that? Maybe in the context of Columbia Home Rule?

Harry Schwarz

Sorry, didn't mean to ignore Josh's contribution - a fascinating conversation, and I'm from across the divide.

Marshmallow Man

Come on, you get the cement plant reference!

All I know is that DPZ staff who we worked with on the Master Plan informed us it was legally enforceable in the manner I described in my prior comment. I understand that was six years ago and I'm looking at this through the lens of history, but housing was a huge sticking point for us at that time.

Thanks for your comments Harry and Josh!


What is the difference between "vouchers", "subsidized housing", "section- 8" housing? I feel like these terms are being used interchangeably- but perhaps are not strictly interchangeable? Also… How do these terms apply to moderate income housing vs minimum income housing? In other words- at one point is one eligible for a voucher, subsidized housing or section-8 housing? What are other measures of a community's stress load when it comes to housing types? Free and Reduced Lunches? What other measurable stats are available? Is there a specific goal of the # of subsidized units that the County is building towards? Is there a community resource plan for each of these projects that identifies additional resources to support the community? Finally- What are the specific arguments for developing and building subsidized units- besides creating housing for our own workforce and a general question of fairness?

Karen Lynn

Mary Cat, I wrote a rather extensive response explaining the differences, but lost it to a computer crash. So, instead I'm providing some links that might be helpful. Both of these reports contain lots of information and an abundance of demographic and income data.

The county's housing plan: http://www.howardcountymd.gov/uploadedFiles/Home/Highlights/Housing/ConPlan%202011-2015_06%2014%2012%20distributed%20_final%20edit%206.pdf

HUD's "Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing" in Howard County: http://www.howardcountymd.gov/uploadedFiles/Home/Highlights/Housing/Howard%20County%20AI%2012.5.11.pdf

Another measure of poverty is, as you suggest, the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced meals. All three schools that are assigned to this area have the largest percentages in the county. The elementary school is over 60%.

I am not aware of any community resource plan for these projects, but that isn't to there isn't one, just that we haven't been told.

I have no problem with subsidized housing. I do think it's appalling that it's even necessary in such a rich country, especially when 2 working people can't afford basic housing. I just don't believe it is good for the residents of the housing or the larger community when large amounts of poverty are concentrated in one area. One of our apartment complexes is already designated 100% very low income housing. And the Verona surrounds that complex. I think that is the kind of concentration that puts undue stress on communities, increases the divide between rich and poor, and that fair housing laws were designed to help prevent.

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Kathryn Dornbrook

How does any of this change the fact that 60 percent of the students at Stevens Forest Elementary are on free or reduced price meals. At adjacent Talbot Springs it's 47 percent; 22 percent of the students there have limited English proficiency.
These theories about housing are all well and good, but our schools are paying a terrible price. How do we revitalize the village when the first thing prospective home buyers look at is school test scores?

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