Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More housing, with some zoning on the side...

I'm really not sure how I feel about this...

A Howard County council member hopes to dispel fears tonight that his plan to create affordable housing at the Guilford Gardens complex in Columbia could leave some without a home.

If a bill sponsored by Council Member Calvin Ball, D-District 2, is passed, 100 town houses and apartments rented by low- and moderate-income residents will be converted into affordable condominiums for purchase.

“If they want to capture the dream of home ownership, they can,” Ball said.

But, “this is one of the few affordable developments left in Howard County for moderate-income families. That’s important to protect,” said Esther Drake, president of the Guilford Gardens board.

Residents who can’t or don’t want to purchase the units will have to move, said Leonard Vaughan, director of the county department of housing and community development. Renters can stay for at least five more years, and the county would help them relocate.
On one hand, I think it’s great to extend the benefits of homeownership to as many as possible, especially if it can be done in a neighborhood they know and like. On the other, affordable rental housing is as scarce as homeownership opportunities are and I’m wary about removing these homes from the rolls if there is not a plan to replace them. Also, there are some people for whom owning a home is a bad idea, and we shouldn’t marginalize them because homeownership has become an overarching American value.

What do you think?

Meanwhile, this sounds like a bad idea...

A simmering controversy over a proposed office building next to the historic Woodlawn Manor in Columbia is now a fierce fight between a developer and preservationists -- with Howard County Council members in the middle.

The focal point of the clash is a bill that would allow office buildings or their parking lots to be 10 feet from open space or multifamily developments instead of 30 feet, which is the current standard. If the bill passes, it would apply countywide, though the current argument is over one project. The County Council is to vote July 3.

County planners believe the bill is a way to push a building to be located off Bendix Road a bit farther from a historic house and closer to a nearby industrial building. But preservationists emphatically disagree.

Doesn't our open space system already put up with enough from us? And why throw in multifamily developments? Are residents there less worthy of adequate setbacks than the rest of us?

Mary Catherine Cochran, president of Preservation Howard County, also assailed the bill as overkill -- changing setback standards countywide when a specific waiver for this one project might be more appropriate.

"What eludes us is why the council would even consider this bill," she said. "Rewriting law to address a single site design issue for a single property is bad business. It is the slippery slope to bad planning and zoning."

That's my concern, too. Why change everything for this one site? Why not just grant a waiver for this property and be done with it?


Anonymous said...

How about neither pass the bill nor grant a site-specific waiver?

Instead, how about legislation that specifically addresses this type of situation, providing appropriate protection for a property containing a place of historical significance? Such regulations do exist for the Ellicott City Historical District, don't they?

Interesting to see yet another historical home belonging to a member of the Owings family in peril. A previous one, Thomas Owings' home at the northwest corner of South Dolfield Road and Painters Mill Road in Owings Mills, was purchased by a developer around 15 years ago and was flattened before preservation or relocation could occur. A six? story office building now occupies that corner.

mary smith said...

Zoning? It's lawlessness for developers who are granted waivers consistently above constituent opposition. The laws apply only to individuals, not developers. This is the reverse of how waivers should function.

Anonymous said...

Mary, waivers are a bad issue.

Worse yet are plans submitted that don't comply with regs and wind up just sailing right through the system. Go figure.