Howard County Blog
A Blog on what is going on in Howard County
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Monday, February 27, 2006
Important Meeting Today
Here are some blog posts about some of the concerns I have heard people in the community raising. If you share these concerns make sure you speak up about them at the meeting and please speak up about other concerns you have.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Focus Group Open Thread
The county Department of Planning and Zoning will be presenting the plan this Monday, February 27th at 7pm at the Spear Center (former Rouse Building) at the Lakefront. My question is: Is the plan ready to be moved forward as seems to be the intentions of the Department of Planning and Zoning? I have yet to see any change to the plan reflecting either public comment during or after the charrette or based on the comments of members of the focus group. I have now attended everyone of the charrette and Focus Group meetings and frankly the plan doesn't reflect what the community said during the charrette and after repeated constructive efforts by members of the focus group to address problems in the plan I have not seen any changes. I wish at this point everything had been fixed and I could go back to my normal busy life, but it hasn't been and I think our best bet left to fix this is to have as big a crowd show up to the February 27th presentation and to show our elected officials through our numbers that we want the plan fixed before it is approved. There seems to be a real potential that there will be push to have the plan approved before key details are known or fixes made. The documents the Department of Planning and Zoning have been presenting to the focus group are replete with reference to important studies being done after approval.
Focus Group Meeting Wednesday
Monday, February 20, 2006
Downtown Driving Experience
According to the Department of Planning and Zoning here is the proposed number of lanes for each of the downtown streets:
Here are the Department of Planning and Zoning’s street diagrams of the proposed streets:
The first thing that jumps out at me is that most of the streets will be one lane each way streets with parallel parking. Having driven in many cities with streets with one lane each way and parallel parking I know that such roads jam up as people pull in and out of spots and they can not handle very much volume. Generally these types of streets only work when they are alternated in a grid of four lane of more roads that are used to move traffic, while the one lane each way streets with parallel parking are used for parking and not as traffic through streets.
OK, let’s look at the planned through streets in the plan:
The only added two lane each way street is the Hickory Ridge Road extension through the Crescent. In fact, the six lane Little Patuxent Parkway is cut down to a two lane each way street with parallel parking.
As I mentioned before even if people wanted to use the new one lane each way with parallel parking streets as alternates to the reduced capacity Little Patuxent Parkway as through streets they couldn’t. The new one lane each way streets (with the exception of Corporate Boulevard) aren’t through streets. In order, to cut through downtown on them you have to zigzag through town. Who would take these streets and how long would it take? Are we creating a recipe for gridlock downtown? This is not a grid that would achieve the theory of traffic dispersion that the traffic consultant presented at the charrette.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
New Guest Bloggers
Saturday, February 18, 2006
High School Reunion
- Phone info
- If you wish to help in planning the reunion
- Recommendations/requests for location/event
- If you don’t have emails for others, but you have their contact info, please include it
If you know of any other Howard County high school graduating classes who would like info about their reunions posted please email me the info and I will post it.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Downtown Columbia Plans Open Thread
Martin Luther King Day thoughts on the impact of community planning and whether new developments are contributing or undermining his dream and Rouses vision.
Remember we can still fix this plan if we speak up now and one good oportunity to do so is the County Department of Planning and Zoning presentation of the plan on February 27th at 7pm at the Spear Center (i.e. former Rouse Building) on the Lakefront. After the presentation there will be an opportunity for the community to speak out.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Liz Bobo Has a New Website
Focus Group Open Thread
If you were unable to attend today’s Focus Group meeting, please use the comments section to share your thoughts on the Draft Design Guidelines Parts One and Two and Street Hierarchy Diagram, Street Types Diagram, and the Draft Urban Design Plan.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Wednesday's Focus Group Meeting
The next Focus Group meeting is this Wednesday the 15th from 3pm to 5:30pm at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center. These meetings are open to the public and at least at the last meeting they opened up the meeting so members of the public raise issues. Though unfortunately these meetings are during the work day, I highly recommend all who can attend to go to these meeting. The Department of Planning and Zoning has now posted the agenda for Wednesday's meeting and the second part of the draft design guidelines that will be discussed as well as the Street Hierarchy Diagram and the Street Types Diagram that will be discussed at the Focus Group meeting. You can check out the first part of the draft design guidelines here.
Let me know what you think.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Reminder about the February 27th Hearing on the Downtown Columbia Plan
If we speak up now we can still fix the current plan.
Will they build enough parking garage spaces to replace the existing parking and handle the increase in cars resulting from the new buildings? The parking plan for the recently approved 22 story building raises grave concerns that enough parking will be built. The 22 story building will only have 1.5 parking spaces per residential unit and about have of these spaces will be tandem parking spaces where cars park behind each other blocking each other in. Most households particularly in upper income units without ready access to a Metro have one car per driver. The condos in the 22 story building are planned to be a half million to over a million dollars per unit. In this cost range it is likely that it will take two incomes to afford these units resulting in two drivers. Plus I have a hard time seeing people who pay a half million to over a million dollars for a condo putting up with tandem parking spaces. In addition, where will guests of residents park? If a resident has family over for Thanksgiving or friends over for a party, where will they park? If residents have family visiting from out of town, where will they park?
If the county is approving parking plans like this one for the 22 story building it significantly undermines trust that they will make sure the rest of the plan will have enough parking. And even if they build enough garage spaces will the garages be paid parking? And if the parking around the mall is paid won’t people go shop at Arundel Mills instead? And if people shop at Arundel Mills instead what will that do to the economic vitality of downtown Columbia?
He didn't just say that
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Big Developments to Our South
James Webb, former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, announced this week he plans to run for the Senate as a Democrat in Virginia against Sen. George Allen (R). I am hearing this is just the latest example of former staunch Republicans particularly in the national security field becoming Democrats. In fact, the list of veterans, including Iraq War veterans, running as Democrats against Republican incumbents is now over 50. On James Webb's decision to run, as a former Secretary of the Navy he seems well positioned to do well in the Norfolk/Hampton Roads area.
What do you think? Will James Webb make this a competitive race?
Friday, February 10, 2006
Widening Route 29
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
February 27th Hearing on Downtown Columbia Plan
If we speak up now we can still fix the current plan.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Preserving Green Space, Revitalizing Columbia’s Village Centers, and Absorbing Population Pressures
I mentioned in a previous post, one way to absorb this population pressure and preserve green space is to be creative in revitalizing Columbia’s village centers. Last week the Columbia Flier published my letter to the editor on how this could be done:
The concept of the mall or the big box strip has always been that people like to shop where they can do all their errands in one place. Thus the more draws to an area the more likely people will shop there and eat in the restaurants there. In recent years I have heard much debate about the "death" of the village center concept. As a result the Owen Brown and Oakland Mills village centers have been downsized and turned into strip shopping centers.
Instead of downsizing the village centers for them to survive, they need two things: 1) better signage and 2) to be upsized for our modern scale of retail. If we were to integrate the modern scale of retail into our village centers by stacking big box stores like Borders and Best Buy on top of grocery stores we could add economic draws to the village centers, make the shopping experience more pleasant and absorb the population pressures that face the county without destroying existing green space.
If we could stack big box stores on top of our grocery stores, then the land taken up by big box stores could be used to build a new village of Columbia, allowing developers to get more bang for their buck off that land and allowing the county to steer new development into this space rather than existing green space. This is not a new concept, but has been used very successfully in Seattle.
With the plans to replace the Safeway in King’s Contrivance with a Harris Teeter, my own village of King’s Contrivance might represent a great opportunity to start this.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Howard County’s Future
Here is a link to my previous post on the current plan.
Here is a link to my previous post on the proposed road network.
Here is a link to my previous post on the effect of the road network on the Lakefront.
Here is a link to my previous post on the impact of development decisions on creating a diverse community.
Here is a link to two of my previous posts on Mixed Income Housing: Post #1 and Post #2.
Last Wednesday's Focus Group
- Mark DeLuca, Traffic Chief in the Department of Public Works, gave a very informative run through of the current major intersections in downtown Columbia and the challenges each will have moving forward.
- The state has a new mark up plan for South Entrance Road to make it more utilized. I will try to post it as soon as I find an online version. If anyone knows where a link to it is please email me.
- Mark DeLuca mentioned that it is common place in Montgomery County for drivers to have to wait through multiple light cycles at traffic lights, but that we don’t want that in Howard County because that would adversely effect our community’s quality of life.
- They are putting a cross walk and pedestrian signals at the Little Patuxent Parkway/Harpers Farm Road intersection.
- I asked Mark DeLuca about the zigzag problems with the proposed grid plan that I blogged about before. He said that if that would be the final version that would be a problem, but that the street layout was still an early sketch. I hope to see this fixed in future sketched. Mark DeLuca also said that part of the problem is working around existing structure. This is something I completely agree with. Given the current structures like the Mall and new buildings that will not be changed anytime in the near future as well as the topography and the lake there is not very much room to create a real functioning grid. At some point we have to make a determination if a grid can be created on the terrain we have that will achieve what they say they want it to achieve.
- Parking concerns were raised and there was widespread sentiment expressed by both members of the focus group and the audience that the current structured garages are full and concern about the implications of this situation moving forward.
- Dick Talkin raised the issue of grid networks working around Camden Yards, but it seems to me that what works about Camden Yards is the easy exit onto highways after events to quickly move traffic out of the area.
- George Miller from the State Highway Administration said that a 3rd northbound lane is in the concept planning stage for Rt. 29 from the Little Patuxent River to Rt. 175, but construction has not been funded yet.
- A new Focus Group meeting was added for Wednesday, February 22nd from 3pm to 5:30pm, in addition the already planned Focus Group meeting on Wednesday, February 15th from 3pm to 5:30pm.
- The proposed plan will be presented to the public on February 27th at 7pm at the Spear Center (former Rouse Building) at the Lake Front. It is my understanding that there will be an opportunity for the public to give feedback at that time. I highly encourage everyone to come to this meeting and let the county know what you think of the current plan.