Sunday, October 16, 2005

Don't fault him for trying...

Even if his ideas are absolutely crazy.

Enter Harry M. Dunbar, 61, of Owen Brown, a community activist and political outsider who declared recently that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for Howard County executive in 2006. Dunbar, the first African-American candidate to run, is not only opposed to suburban sprawl - he's even opposed to allowing hundreds of new homes and businesses in central Columbia, where they've been planned for years, he said.

...Instead of a vibrant, more urban-style downtown with high-rise buildings, and more expensive homes and businesses on the parking lots behind Merriweather Post Pavilion, Dunbar, a maverick who has worked on both Democratic and Republican campaigns, said he'd prefer a public park there.

...He added that he knows people have the right to develop their land but feels that Howard's schools and roads are too crowded and that government should do more to restrict growth.

Ok. Either he has no idea how valuable the land in Town Center is or...I don't even know what to say. The thought that you could take this developable land--in the middle of one of the wealthiest county's in the nation--and turn it into a park is ludicrous, especially when there's a park (Symphony Woods) right next door. Does he think General Growth is going to hand over the parking lots for the good of the county? Or develop the park there on its own?

I am no fan of uncontrolled and unchecked growth. But, unlike some people, I see it as inevitable. Yesterday at the Charrette an economist brought up the fact that Fort Meade is going to be home to an additional 7,000 armed forces personnel and at the same time up to 25 million square feet of office space in northern Virginia is going to be vacated by defense contractors, many of whom are likely to move to places that are benefiting from the military realignment, like here. That is our reality, and its foolish to think this reality won't affect us.

So, what do we do? Do we slow growth even more than we already have? Do we stop it entirely--the short road to complete exculsivity for this county's housing? Or do we try to recognize that it's going to happen and that Columbia and other urbanized areas of the county are better places for development than the rural west?

I certainly understand where Dunbar's coming from, though. Reality is quite messy and often it's best to just turn your back on it.

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