Sunday, July 30, 2006

Lazy Columbia post...

The downtown Focus Group is nearing the end of its existence and much is still up in the air. According to The Sun:

After months of meetings, wide disparity remains on key issues, not the least of which is the vision for the downtown area.

That was apparent again Thursday as the 23-member, county-appointed focus group debated the specificity it should demand and consider.

On one side is the proposition that the group should limit itself to "the big vision," leaving the details to others.

"The purpose here is what do we want in downtown," said Richard B. Talkin, a board member and attorney, whose clients include some of the largest developers in the region.

"We should not get that detailed," he said. "We're here to talk about vision: What do we want downtown to be and how do we get there?"

On the other side are those who claim the details are necessary before one can prudently determine whether the vision is socially, environmentally and fiscally acceptable.

"We should look at the big picture, but we've got to look at the smaller stuff, too," said Cynthia Coyle, a panelist and member of the Columbia Association board of directors.

If there's any confusion about where I stand, here is part of a letter to the editor I wrote the week before the charrette that generally still reflects how I feel:

Beneath a typically suburban veneer, Columbia is a unique community. Unlike other cities that were founded on the needs of commerce or the whims of developers, the foundation of our community is a set of guiding principles, which coalesced into an ambitious vision. Based on his experiences and exceptional foresight, James Rouse envisioned a community that is inclusive, instead of exclusive; that integrates life’s essentials, instead of relegating them to the fringes or ignoring them entirely; that connects, instead of alienates; and that fosters growth, instead of complacency. From this foundation, our community was born, and will be reborn. Only this time, we must provide the vision.

...My only fear is that, in the midst of the chaos at Wilde Lake High School on October 15, we may lose our bearings. While there is certainly a need to discuss the layout of the streets, commercial square footage, and the optimum number of residential units, focusing on these details may distract us from the guiding principles that define our community. As important as our ideas about the future may be, our ideals are even more so.


Anonymous said...

The conversion of Columbia into another BETHESDA has begun. If this what the residents of Columbia want, then congratulations. But, somehow, I don't think the residents are really aware of the ramifications of what is being done.

Anonymous said...

If that's the case, kiss affordable housing goodbye. The same CNN/Money article that ranked Columbia as the fourth best small city this year also details Bethesda's median home price as $790,000 vs. Columbia's $329,000.

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