Thursday, July 20, 2006


Rather than subject you to a tedious introduction about the British Open or yet more excuses for why I’m skimping on word production, I’ll jump right in with the brief, wholly unsupported commentary you’ve come to expect from a Hayduke Round Up.

The silliness with the Lake Elkhorn tot lot continues. In a near perfect display of what it means to “pass the buck,” the Columbia Association Board of Directors placed the Owen Brown Village Board in charge of soliciting opinions on various proposals for the playground from residents. But, wait, what about this:

The village does not have any authority to request that a barrier be placed at the Columbia Association-owned playground, though it is expected to share residents' comments with members of the CA board of directors. The CA board could then decide to follow residents' wishes.
So why do they have to drag the village board into this? It’s as if they want everyone to share their self-inflicted pain.

A quick word of advice to CA from someone who initially didn’t support the fence: Build it already and be done with all of this!

In this otherwise uneventful story about the mediation idea, one sentence stood out: “[Councilman Calvin] Ball cited Berkeley, Calif., and Boise, Idaho, as cities successfully using mediation in zoning issues.” Wow, are there two places (that seem) more diametrically opposite than Berkeley and Boise? Having never been to Boise, my question is certainly based more on preconceptions than experience. I have, however, been to Idaho, which counts for something. Also, I know that Boise State has a blue Astroturf football field, which doesn’t count for much.

A comment on a letter to the editor in today’s Flier by Wilde Lake Village Board member and notorious rabble-rouser (which I mean in a good way) Mary Pivar, who probably disagrees with me on how much importance we ascribe to the downtown traffic study (but that’s another matter…focus!).

She says: “Public reaction has revealed it to be unacceptable to approve development before the necessary infrastructure is in place, which includes water and sewage upgrades in addition to school and road requirements.” At this risk of annoying some people, building infrastructure in anticipation of development, especially distantly future development, is as bad as not building any new infrastructure after development occurs. It forces existing residents to pay more than their fair share for the infrastructure improvements (bond buyers won’t wait for our tax base to increase before expecting payments). It runs the risk of being underutilized for many years (perhaps forever, depending on the real estate markets), as developers will still have considerable say of what gets built and when – regardless of how much we plan. Plus, building now means we’ll be using 2006 technology to accommodate new infrastructure needs in 2020 or 2030.

Now, I would agree that we need a good plan for infrastructure improvements before we approve new development, but that’s a whole lot cheaper and less risky than undertaking massive infrastructure upgrades.

Following two recent (and somewhat strange) incidents at Howard County General Hospital, Police Chief William McMahon and councilman Ken Ulman will discuss security issues at an upcoming meeting. Although neither incident resulted in any serious problems, it’s probably a good idea to go over security policies and protocols, just in case coincidental timing turns into something more.

Finally, how about a Ravens-Redskins Super Bowl?


Anonymous said...

It's kind of a Catch 22.

If you don't build the infrastructure until the developer hands over an impact fee or the development is done, you unfairly burden the existing community with overcrowded schools and roads and undercapacity water/sewer systems when the new development is occupied.

If you build the infrastructure prior to the development being a firm reality, you unfairly burden the existing community with the tax bill for the infrastructure. However, this can be mitigated by recouping the cost of the early infrastructure build through impact fees from the developer. Yes, it results in more expensive development, but it removes unfair pre-development burdens from the existing community.

In many cases, building infrastructure beforehand saves the community and developer money. Acquiring rights of way long before development is done can be advantageous. Similarly, building a two-lane bridge can, even in many cases accounting for net present value depending on lead time, cost less than half the cost of building a one lane bridge now and expanding it to two lanes later.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the suggestion of getting impact from the developer to pay for infrastructure improvements in Town Center that would support the developer's plans. NO public money should be spent on those infrastructure improvements. BUT, beware of what is being pushed for "improving and invigorating" Town Center by certain people (Ken Ulman, Guy Guzzone, and Joshua Feldmark). Town Center will become another Bethesda if the current "charette" plans are approved. Is that really what the people of Columbia and Howard County want??? I doubt it, but that's the direction that Ulman, Guzzone, and Feldmark are taking it.

Anonymous said...

Why anyone with Columbia's best interests at heart would want to turn Columbia into Bethesda is beyond me.