Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Downtown Columbia Redevelopment and the Columbia Association

In response to an excellent article in the Examiner local blogger HayDuke asks some very important questions:

What about the fact that CA -- already burdened by debt -- will have to provide thousands of additional residents with the amenities all Columbians expect? Will they have to build a pool? What about pathways? What about a new community center, since the current Town Center location is well away from the heart of the village at Oakland Manor?

These are some excellent questions. I have raised the pool issue at past Focus Group meetings and my suggestion is that in order to save land space (which is very highly priced) that the new downtown pools are designed creatively. For example, the proposed 22 story condo building for the Lakefront is currently designed to have a pool on its roof. Now since exclusive pools are an assault on the very principles Columbia was founded on, with our pools being one of the main mixing areas where peoples of all backgrounds get to know each other, I suggest that this pool be made the Lakefront neighborhood pool run by CA and part of the CA system.

I have also raised at a past focus group meeting the need for additional neighborhood center facilities for each new neighborhood. More residents will mean more demand for space for new community groups to meet and residents to rent for special events. I have already heard from some old friends that there is not enough appropriate space for the Israeli dance group, which probably means groups that do similar activities like Irish folk dancing, Jazz dance, ballet, step dancing, country line dancing, swing dancing, and ballroom dancing. The overall increase in the population of Columbia might mean we need some larger public gathering spaces. As a whole I think a thorough evaluation of what the needs will be for Columbia and Howard County with the additional population is needed. Maggie Brown’s response to me seemed to be based on the present conditions rather than the needs after the new population. Of course I think all of these facilities could be integrated into mixed use buildings as long as adequate parking or mass transit are provided.

Put of course all of this means that HayDuke’s conclusion is right on the mark:

In reality, CA isn't gaining more money or power. It's gaining more obligations.

And obligations for CA mean obligations for lien payers and thus potentially lien increases. Lien increases really amount to property tax increases. Thus it should be no surprise that the CA Reps currently on the focus group have been asking tough questions and that Jud Malone who is on the focus group and was a CA Rep got voted out of office last spring after preaching that we should trust the developers.

I believe that if the developers want the huge profits that they will get from building in downtown (or in my opinion anywhere) they must not pass on the costs resulting from the development (including roads, parking, mass transit, schools, sewers, water treatment, environmental impact mitigation, social services (and this includes the issues of pools, community facilities, etc. mentioned above), maintenance of developed areas, and preservations of community standards such as mixed income housing) to tax or lien payers. This is basic economics. When the costs of production are not fully absorbed in the cost of a product (these unabsorbed costs are known in economics as externalities), then it is the job of the government to require that the producer bare that cost as part of the cost of production so that third parties (i.e. the tax or lien payer) don’t have to pay for the unabsorbed costs. This is the accepted and normal fix to the third party payer problem that is used in every capitalist country. In our case the situation is very simple: What we (the community) has that the developers want is the additional residential units, so any elected official that wants to get elected again will not grant those residential units until the developer agrees to a plan with firm guarantees that are legally enforceable that the developer will cover these costs that must be met to make the plan workable.

As a side note, I think the article does a great job of portraying the mentality of some in CA, including Tom O’Conner, who is quoted in the story. I think HayDuke raises questions that I have heard other more realistic and forward think CA Reps like Cindy Coyle and Phil Kirsch raise at focus group meetings. Understanding the space limitation of the Examiner, I hope that this article becomes the first in a series that reports on how different elected parts of CA are looking at these issues.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you find it? Interesting read » »

8:43 AM  

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