Howard County Blog

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

At Wednesday’s Focus Group

There was a number of interesting issues discussed at Wednesday’s Focus Group meeting. Here are a couple, tell me what you think:

  • The current plan has the Mall existing in a donut hole that is not covered by any of the zones. How should the Mall be dealt with? Should it be left out to be dealt with later? Should future redevelopment of each side of the Mall reflect the characteristics of the zone it borders?
  • What happens to the parking decks that currently are also in the Mall donut hole?
  • How do we guarantee mixed uses?
  • Does mixed use imply within buildings or within a zone? Dennis Miller representing General Growth (the developer that bought Rouse) said that his understanding was that buildings could have a single use within a mixed use zone. (Editorial Note: The most commonly expressed thing I heard at the charrette was that the community wanted all of downtown to be mixed use. I understood this to mean mixed within buildings. If a building is not fully mixed it means that there is a dead street in front of the building during parts of the day and thus less eyes on the street and more likelihood for crime to occur when there is no witnesses.)
  • There was some discussion of the relationship between market forces and community needs. (Editorial Note: I am going to write a future blog post on this topic.)
  • Bob Tennenbaum asked if school sites would be counted as open space and Marsha McLaughlin answered that “schools are considered open space”. (Editorial Note: This raises the question of where the school sites would be? If that statement means (and I hope I am wrong about this) that schools would be built on the marked open space lands like Symphony Woods, which is really the only large open space plot in the plan, then this raises a large number of concerns. I will try to get an answer from the Department of Planning and Zoning and post it here. {Update: I had a chance to talk to Bill Mackey at the Department of Planning and Zoning on Jan. 24th and he told me that schools would not be built on designated open space. This is good, but it still doesn’t answer where schools will be built.})
  • There was some discussion on whether the path around the lake should go all the way around the north edge or should cross a bridge at the current island in the middle.

  • There was discussion of the need to expand the “Core Area” at the lakefront one block north and along the entire lake’s edge and west to Little Patuxent Parkway.

  • There was discussion of the elevation change from the intersection of Little Patuxent Parkway - Brokenland Parkway and Twin Rivers Road - Brokenland Parkway and how walkability will be affected by that.
  • There was discussion of the need for connectivity and transition from the Warfield Triangle Zone and the Crescent Zone which are currently cut off from each other by the Corporate Boulevard Zone. (Editorial Note: To me this is made more concerning by the fact that the Corporate Boulevard is not planned to have any residential units and as a result will be a dead area at night where crime is more likely to occur.)
  • The Focus Group members also requested more discussion of affordable housing, density, community/civic spaces, and traffic. (Editorial Note: After the meeting I mentioned to Steve Lafferty that I thought parking should also have further discussion, but since I am not on the Focus Group I am not sure if this will be added to the list for further discussion.)

There were a number of other issues discussed (some I plan to get to in future posts), but in the meantime if anyone else who was at the Focus Group meeting wants to add anything I missed or correct me if I got something wrong please use the comments section to do so and disclose who you are so other readers know. If I made an error that you do not want to comment on yourself please email me and I will update with the appropriate correction.

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