Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Canvas on Which We Live Our Lives

One of the decisions with the most impact on our day to day lives is where buildings and roads are built, how they are designed, and what they contain. These decisions are the canvas on which we live our lives. How easy is it to get from home to work or the store? Do we have places to gather as a community, enjoy time with friends, make new friends if we want, and to collect our thoughts in peace? Do we spend all of our time in traffic or searching for parking?

The location and design of buildings and roads are not accidents, but planned developments. Buildings and roads cost a lot of money and when they are built a community is generally stuck with them for a long time. Thus a community must make sure that when buildings are built they are built in the best way for both long term economic viability and to promote and not detract from the quality of life in the community.

It is on these grounds that I am gravely concerned about the new 22 story building that the Planning Board just approved. The nature of a condo building is a developer builds it and then sells off its units to individuals. Thus the financial interest of the developer is only for short term sales. In a housing market like the one we are currently in, the interests of the developer is simply to build it fast because they know that anything they build will sell. Thus the developer has no market incentive not to leave the community with a blight.

Nowhere is this problem in the 22 story building more apparent than in parking. The developer is building only 1.5 parking spaces per residential unit and many of these spaces are tandem parking (where cars park behind each other blocking each other in). Anyone who has ever parked in an underground garage in DC knows how cramped and hard to maneuver in garages can be. Now imagine the strains of constantly moving cars in such a cramped space puts on everyday life. Imagine the additional cost of nicks and scratches cars will inevitably get in such a place. Now imagine someone who has bought a half million to a million dollar condo putting up with this parking situation for long. If the housing market declines it is just such units as these that will be the first to decline. And if that happens the developer will have gotten their money and be long gone and the community will be left with a blight.

This is why new construction must be well thought through. This is why the community’s interests must have the final say. This is why our elected officials and those they appoint must look out for the community’s long term interests. This is why who we elect matters so much because it has such a major impact on the canvas on which we live our lives and we have a power through our vote shape that canvas.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only 1.5 spaces per condo and tandem parking, too? The demographic expected to buy these units can certainly afford multiple vehicles. I, too,
expect they'll have parking issues.

Does the county's design manual jive with reality? Will the same ratio be used for the mixed-use zoning along Routes 1 and 40, too? Too bad the design manual isn't available online.

1:41 PM  
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