Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Battle of Belmont

Since the Belmont Conference Center was purchased by the Howard Community College Educational Foundation in 2004, neighbors of the conference center have kept a watchful eye on expansion plans; HCC contends such development is necessary to make the center more useful to the community...oh, and to make a profit (or at least fully cover expenses). Because of historic easements on the site, the only permissible construction is that which is essential to ensuring the center's financial viability. Meanwhile, residents are concerned about the site losing its historic character and increased traffic, among other things.

I'm not sure on which side of this issue I fall. On one hand, HCC's argument that the expansion is needed to make money sounds dubious; it seems like they're financing construction so they can pay the debt with increased revenue, which is unnecessary if the facility is solvent now. On the other hand, Belmont could be a pretty good resource for the county as a whole, especially considering how attractive the grounds are and its convenient location. The residents, however, are right to seek assurances about historic preservation and the mitigation of impacts on the surrounding community.

How's that for a Chris Merdon-like stance?

Anyway, the point of me bringing this up is not to be wishy-washy. I'm writing because, regardless of where you stand on the issue, HCC's openness about its intentions and plans are worthy of recognition. Indeed, last Thursday, the college unveiled its plan and listened to comments from a crowd of about 60 community members at a public meeting (although the plan was required by law).

You can read the story if you'd like to know more. Moreover, you can visit Belmont's website for details on the plan, and then be sure to check out Save Belmont for their take on things. Finally, for those of you interested in visuals, here's a picture of the plan.

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