Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Friday, March 17, 2006

Let's Not Be a Florida

Alex Hekimian has a must read letter to the editor in this week's Howard County Times:

I just returned from a trip to the Fort Myers/Bonita Springs/Naples, Fla., area. It was supposed to be a pleasure trip, but what wasn't fun were the long traffic backups practically everywhere in the area. It stands as a sobering lesson for us here in Columbia.

WCI Communities Inc., the builder of the proposed 275-foot high Plaza Residences building in downtown Columbia, is based in the area of Florida I visited. I saw firsthand what a mess builders have made in that part of Florida. They are overbuilding and causing massive traffic jams throughout the area. According to the local newspapers, residents have been so upset about the unsustainable growth that they recently voted out of office all of the incumbents in the City Council of Bonita Springs, the city where WCI's headquarters is located.

Our challenge is to learn from Florida's experience and to prevent a downtown Columbia master plan that could allow so much development that it would cause the same potential mess right here in Columbia.


Blogger HEH2 said...

This is a test

1:40 PM  
Blogger HEH2 said...

I was also in Florida (Naples) last year and dealt with WCI--Tiburon, a very lovely community. Quite the contrary, I didn't see all the traffic. In fact,most of the time, I think this traffic issue, etc. is a smoke screen, use in an attempt to kill low-cost housing opportunaties. Moreover, if we are going to admire Jim Rouse vision, let be honest!!!!!

1:44 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

"Low cost housing opportunaties"? The WCI tower will only have half million to 2.5 million dollar condos. There is nothing low cost about that. I would have a lot less problems with the tower if it reflected Rouse's vision. Sadly the tower is exactly the opposite: not mixed income and with a private pool on the roof. Let us remember that one of the main gathering points that Rouse used to break down barriers in society are the community pools. If they change the tower to have all income levels and make the pool on the roof the Lakefront Neighborhood pool open to all CA members then it might reflect Rouse's vision. So as you say: lets be honest!!!!!!!!

As for the point of Alex's letter to the editor, he is pointing out that if we don't get the infrastructure and design to handle the traffic it will be a mess so we must get this guaranteed before we give the developer what they want or like what has happened in Florida the developer will not do what is the communities interest unless the community through the government zoning process requires it. I am not opposed to redeveloping downtown Columbia, in fact I am in favor of it. I just want it done right in a way that is livable, economically viable and reflects the Howard County values of mixed income, preservation of green space, and planning before we build so we have the infrastructure to meet the needs of the community. The current plan will not accomplish this so I want to help fix it, including having all parts of the plan be mixed income (which again the tower is not) before it is approved.

9:59 PM  
Blogger wintersnowman said...

Good point. But from my perspective, as an economics student who has a large interest in urban planning... the whole road system in Columbia and Howard County is flawed. An ideal road system would be a grid pattern... like any classic city from the beginning of time. It is only with suburban sprawl, suburban zoning boards and developers, and a NIMBY mindset that curvilinear street patterns have become ascendant.

Think about it... if you have a grid, then traffic is spread out amongst the entire system. The way that it is now, traffic in Columbia moves through a few select feeder roads and most of the other roads are used exclusively by local residents. (In addition, the feel of a grid pattern is much more desireable, IMHO. Just think of the front porches, the neighborhood stores, the corner lots that are created with a grid pattern).

Unfortunately, I don't forsee people willing to give up their quiet, sleepy streets in the name of more efficient traffic flow. You reap what you sow.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

As a fellow Terp with a passion for urban planning I am glad you joined the discussion. Let me suggest that the grids vs. curvilinear street patterns debate is a straw man agrument that the cookie cutter formula "consultants" at the charrette precented, but in reality these are not the only two options. In fact I would submit that what Columbia has is very different from the Irvine, CA example used at the charrette and represents a third "grids of scale" model, where we have overlapping grids of different scale(i.e. size and speed) roads. This provides a very quick traffic flow in the age of cars while allowing a very pedestrian friendly environment. Nearly everyone in Columbia can walk to a village center and also can drive to any other part of Columbia in 15 minutes by quickly using the different scale roads. I guess I should write a front page post on grids of scale. I will add it to my list of posts in the works.

12:49 AM  
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