Thursday, February 22, 2007

And I feel like I'm a cog in something turning...

Following up on yesterday's post about the proposed interim height limit for Town Center that would retroactively apply to the Plaza Tower, there are a couple news items worth mentioning.

First, I'm glad to see that the Flier's editorial this week largely agrees with my take, saying such a measure is both "unfair and bad government." Which is true.

But of more concern to me from the news today are comments made by the Coalition for Columbia's Downtown's spokesman, Alan Klein, who fully supports the temporary height limit being proposed by council member Mary Kay Sigaty.

"It is a victory for all of the people in Columbia," said Alan Klein, a spokesman for the Coalition for Columbia's Downtown, a citizen's group that opposes the construction of Plaza-like high-rise buildings in Town Center. "It is certainly a first step, a way to put (the height limit) back where it belongs."
I know this may seem like it's a bizarre fetish of mine -- pedantically questioning CCD's language choice -- but it's frustrating to see the continued use of phrases like "all of the people in Columbia" when the group clearly does not represent all of the people in Columbia. Indeed, another Tower roadblock is, for many, a defeat. There are actually Columbians who want to live in the Tower and many who would just like to see the future of Town Center become reality rather than just an abstract, incomplete plan.

Another reason I think such talk is damaging is that it continues to paint the picture as one of citizens versus... uh, others, be they developers, planners, politicians, whoever. There are not two sides fighting for only two different things in the debate over Town Center.

In a perfect world, there would be no sides, just individuals with different backgrounds and ideas working towards compromise. In the real world, there are many sides hoping for a plan that reflects some/most/all of their values and visions.

In the Examiner, meanwhile, Klein makes another point I disagree with:
“Our belief was from the beginning it was a mistake to exempt the tower plans from the charrette process,” said Alan Klein, spokesman for Coalition for Columbia’s Downtown, a resident’s activist group.
Was it really the case that the Tower was exempt from the planning process, or was it simply not on enough people's radar screens prior to the charrette?

Very long-time readers of this blog will remember that I posted something about the Tower (which included a picture of the building) several weeks before the charrette. And the approval process for this project -- covered by most local papers -- was also underway many months before, as well (I believe as early as January, 2005).

Even if the Tower was somehow "exempt" from the charrette, does that mean it wasn't on the minds of at least a few people? Certainly, I considered it, and others mentioned it at my table. Couldn't its plans have affected input during the charrette?

Now, I think you can say it is exempt from (or not included in) the yet-unfinished master plan that was a product of the charrette. But, getting back to the fairness issue, that is as it should be. If the project's approval was already underway before the charrette, why should it be subject to rules and a plan generated after the fact?

"Because some people don't like it" is not a sufficient answer.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

"It's a victory for all of the people of Columbia." Wow. I agree Hayduke, making statements like that leave me cold too and actually make me want to learn more about the the other side (s) that lost the battle.

Jessie said...

I was going to post on the Hometown Columbia blog regarding this exact same subject, but I'll just say "Ditto on Hayduke's post here. On all points." Thanks, Hayduke, for your civil discourse on a topic that challenges my capacity for it.

pzguru said...

Ok, so let's talk "fairness". If the Final Development Plan (FDP0 WAS improperly changed (the court case is still pending), shouldn't it be undone to make things right? Wouldn't that be fair? Is it the citizens fault that the County may have done something that might not have been proper?

If the tower was going in next to your house, would you be ok with it?

Even if your answer is yes, as long as other people have an issue with it, aren't they entitled to oppose it if they want to?

Regardless of the FDP change, the fact is that the Planning Board had a serious lapse in judgement in allowing the tower when it had no context within the surrounding buildings or Town Center in general. Was it intentionally approved to "open the flood gates" for the approval of the master plan? Who knows for certain, but the Planning Board certainly showed a lot more concern for design issues when reviewing many other prior cases.

I would like to know just how many people you think support the proposed master plan and/or unlimited heights for Town Center buildings? 20%, 30%, 80%?

B. Santos said...

pz,

You almost had me. I am very interested to see if the Planning Board decision holds up under review, in fact, I think that it is precisely the right question to ask.

Then you went and stepped in it. Your statement:

"Even if your answer is yes, as long as other people have an issue with it, aren't they entitled to oppose it if they want to?" Is valid, but completely misses Hayduke's point that those that oppose claim that "all the people" believe that too.

Evan said...

pzguru,

Thank you for reminding everyone of the real issue here:

"Ok, so let's talk "fairness". If the Final Development Plan (FDP0 WAS improperly changed (the court case is still pending), shouldn't it be undone to make things right? Wouldn't that be fair? Is it the citizens fault that the County may have done something that might not have been proper?"

No one should be above the law. Not even (or maybe especially) the government.

Evan said...

Oh and HayDuke now you are the one claiming that its not a two sided discussion? Yet for months after the charrette a theme throughout your posts was implying that anyone who disagreed with you was against all change when you knew full well that only Harry Dunbar opposed all change. You and I had many conversations throughout that period and you knew full well I wanted downtown redeveloped, but that I had significant concerns that the plan being proposed would not achieve what its promoters claimed. Beautiful words won't mean a darn thing if the substance of the plan won't achieve it.

So back to my current point that I also said repeatedly through that period that I thought there were many complex views about downtown and to try to characterize the people who wanted to fix the plan as instead opposed to change was just flat wrong. Now after you spent months trying to pigeon hole people who dared say the plan needed more work you are pulling out the "there should be no sides" card. I started this whole process really thinking that we could all work together to come up with the best plan. I spent my time talking to the the consultants at the charrette, the staff of DPZ, Dennis Miller and later Doug Godine of GGP, and numerous elected officials. While I was doing this you were putting up posts trying to pigeon hole those of us with concerns while we were trying to work through the system. I still hope this is not an us verse them situation but my efforts at trying to discuss ways to fix the plan have been met by distortions of where I stand. That is not the way to have a dialog.

As the the Tower being left out of the proposed downtown plan. It was county officials who have been arguing that the Tower was exempt from the downtown plan. Alan is just referring to the claims of county officials, including statement of Marsha McLaughlin and Bill Mackey at Focus Group meetings and public meetings.

Hayduke said...

PZ: If the FDP was illegally changed, then it should probably be undone. But in order for it to be fully undone, we'll need to remove the Lakeside condo building, too, as it's land use change was a result of the same Planning Board action that paved the way for the Plaza.

Whether I would be OK with the Tower next to my house is completely irrelevant. I don't live in Town Center and almost every house on my street is a single story. How is my neighborhood context in any way similar to Town Center?

I generally think people can oppose projects. That's not what this post was about, however.

How can you say PB had no context to approve a tall building? The tallest buildings in the county are all in Town Center, and given gradients, the Tower's ultimate height won't be much more than the buildings in Corporate Center.

You would likely know better if there was a conspiracy to "open the flood gates," but since this project was proposed before the idea of a charrette was by the county, that seems a bit of a stretch.

I have no idea how many people support the proposed master plan/unlimited heights, but I'd love to know. Do you? Does anyone? That's kind of the point I'm trying to make.

Evan: The "citizens" versus developers/planners/etc canard has been around since before the charrette and I've attacked it regularly. Only after CCD officially organized was there a single body responsible for the continued propogation of this myth.

As for pigeon holing, I never said either you support the plan or you're Harry Dunbar. But I did say that in the crowd of voices opposing the plan there are some (a few, many?) who are trying to discredit/derail the plan to somehow prevent more development in Town Center. Since Dunbar got 5,000 some votes in the primary, I think my suspicions have been validated.

And, yes, while you were doing the dirty work to save this town from itself, I was sitting at home picking my nose and calling everybody names.

No distortion there.

NotFoCoFoDoCo said...

"If the tower was going in next to your house, would you be ok with it? "

The tower is not going next to anyone's house. it is going next to a restaurant, an office building, a divided highway, and 5-story condo building.

How many of those condo people have complained? 2? out of how many condo residents? So we yield the fate of a county to 2 residents?

you scream, i scream.... said...

Evan- "a theme throughout your posts was implying that anyone who disagreed with you was against all change"

Again with perpetrating the us vs. them. Have you read Hayduke's blog? Are you so narrowminded so as to think this was what was implied?

Anonymous said...

Wow! Talk about not being able to “see the forest for (through) the trees!” Or in many Tower arguments, the Lake through the Tower! Is our quibbling distracting us from more important issues like the long term environmental impact of proposed development and how degraded lakes may affect us all? Why not shift the discussion to more substantive points? For example, why is there so little questioning about HOW the Tower is to be built (if in fact, it gets built)? Why do so many local groups stop short of demanding LEED certification for all buildings? (See http://www.usgbc.org/ if you are among those who don’t know what that means). Why is there so little talk of Lake Kit’s TMDL? “The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is the maximum amount of pollution that a water body can assimilate without violating state water quality standards;” pretty liberal standards as they stand. Why is little attention paid to runoff & storm water management plans for the Tower or other proposed buildings?
Let’s consider who would benefit most by all this arguing among ourselves.
I would caution everyone to avoid getting “greenwashed” in the process that is coming down the pike. "Greenwashing” is what corporations (or government officials) do when they try to make themselves look more environmentally friendly than they really are." As we know, water truly does find its own level. Let's raise the level!

pzguru said...

Hayduke,

If the Lakeside Condo building is residences, then you are correct. If it is offices, then you are incorrect. The FDP change had nothing to do with height limits, it allowed residential use buildings on land sub-zoned Employment/Commercial.

If this tower was proposed nearer the taller buildings in the Corporate Cente area, then I probably would not have any issue with it. However, it IS out of context with the buildings nearest to its proposed location.

The fact that only two residents in the garden style condo building next to it have publicly opposed it does not mean anything. What exactly is the standard for the number of people opposing something for you to consider it legitimate?

The fact that they live there and will be seriously affected makes their concerns MUCH more relevant than your support for the tower, or anyone else who supports the tower that does not live right next to it. Are there people who live in the adjacent garden condo building who support the tower? Maybe.

If only 300 people out of 30,000 Coulmbia residents went to the charette meetings, does that mean there's a mandate for change? No. If there are 301 people who oppose it, does that mean they get their way? No. However, the people who are opposing in some fashion, the whole redevelopment idea DO have many valid points for why it should NOT be done. For the most part, you dismiss their points too readily and simply say that they are impeding progress. To which I say, if you and others want a more vibrant city (and I completely dispute the notion that Town Center is not vibrant as it is), then you and the others should move to an existing city that fits your desires - dont' cram your desires down everyone else's throats.

AND, Town Center could be made "better" by other means besides density increases or constructing skyscrapers. Plenty more development can still occur within the bounds of the currently approved PDP. Pedestrian bridges can be installed without re-doing the whole street network. Art can be added anywhere. More landscaping can be added too. Older buildings can be rehabbed. You for some reason just refuse to acknowledge any of those possibilities.

towncenterlackspeople said...

"dont' cram your desires down everyone else's throats"

Yes.....I think this goes both directions.

You, Alan, Evan and your lackeys should all remember that too.

Ann Oyed said...

PZ-

"If this tower was proposed nearer the taller buildings in the Corporate Cente area, then I probably would not have any issue with it. However, it IS out of context with the buildings nearest to its proposed location."

If you think you'd support the plaza nearer corporate center, then please answer the following:

1. Sheraton- how many stories?
2. American City building: how many stories?
3. Merrill Lynch building- how many stories?
4. 10211 Wincopin building- how many stories?
5. Parkside Building- how many stories?
6. Parkview Building- how many stories?
7. Fieldstone Mortgage Building- how many stories?
8. Grammercy apts/condos- how many stories?

The please explain how the context of “corporate centre” is so drastically different than the proposed location on Wincopin.

pzguru said...

It's different because there are not smaller buildings interspersed among the taller buildings in the Corporate Center area. Or can you not see that. I refer again to the garden style condo building that will be encased by much taller buildings if the WCI tower building goes up. If you bought a unit there with a view of something other than a skyscraper and then some one put a skyscraper there, how would you react? Whenever situations like this occur, try putting yourself in the other persons position and look at it from their perspective. Understand now?

And, none of the buildings you cited are nearly as tall as the proposed WCI tower building, so your attempted points are not going to be counted.

Towncenterlackspeople - I must disagree with your name. It's misleading. So me and the others who dare disagree with the town center plan are lackeys? You really got me on that one. I won't dare engage you in any future discussions since I can't possibly match your wit.

Ms. Oyed said...

You're right! My view of the highway and the mall parking lot would totally be blocked! Thank goodness my other views are still parking lots. Phew!

FreeMarket said...

PZG: "If you bought a unit there with a view of something other than a skyscraper and then some one put a skyscraper there, how would you react?"

Translation: NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY. Oh, and NIMBY.

pzguru said...

How does that make me, or the opponents NIMBYs? Have I ever said that nothing can be built? NO! By your rationale, nobody can oppose a development without being labeled a NIMBY. Not very rational. I do believe that WCI and/or GGP have every right to develop the land and enjoy a profit. At the same time, though, their rights must be balanced with the rights of the people who already live there and own property there. I would not support anyone who takes the stance that nothing can be built next to their home/condo/office/whatever. So don't place such a label on me. Thank you.

Ms Oyed - how do you know that their only view is of the highway and a parking lot. If I'm not mistaken there are trees and the sky and the lake and....well plenty of natural vistas for the people to enjoy. You get an "F" for over-exaggeration.

Oyed the Great said...

You get an F for not knowing the area. Take a drive to the condos and tell me what you see. It isn't a lake or natural vistas, I can tell you that. Then look at where the proposed tower will sit. Please, tell me how their view would be tarnished. You clearly haven't been to the area and don't fully understand the situation.

Do a little research before you start passing out insults.

FreeMarket said...

PZG- your comment that I quoted was an appeal to emotion, which is a logical fallacy. Therefore, your argument was not rational because that premise based on emotional appeal is not valid. You utilized a main tactic of NIMBYs by using that particular fallacy. You are quite welcome!

Ms. Oyed- go on with your bad self!

Anonymous said...

You all miss the point. Something is going to happen. The deed is done and the building permits are granted. We can either come together as a community and work this out or we can continue to be polarized and get nothing.

WCI could start building the next day if they do not see that waiting can benefit them.

I would rather see a negotiation of community amenities or a couple stories shorter instead of this thing rammed down our throats becuase we were asleep at the wheel for 3 years and too stuburn to talk.

Anonymous said...

Build as high as you can in Columbia - it is a downtown. NIMBY-ists can move if they don't like it.

pzguru said...

oyed - so there's no sky or trees when looking in any direction? Interesting.

Freemarket - again I've never said that nothing should be built. And re-read my first comment about the initial FDP change which is part of the legal challenge currently pending. My point about the hypothetical is valid. You and oyed can't comprehend the position of the opponents. And although some of the opposition is rooted in emotional reaction, there is still plenty of factual reasoning for why the tower is questionable.

I hope someone proposes a sewage treatment plant next to your house - but don't complain or oppose it, 'cause then you'd be a nimby - right?

red herring said...

How is a 22 story tower of million dollar condos anything like a sewage treatment plant?

Anonymous said...

A 22-story condo tower and a sewage treatment plant are similar in that people rightly deserve zoning to provide some predictability when they buy and live in a home that their environs will be for some time as they expected.

Without such zoning sensibility, who would feel comfortable buying any property, knowing the next day could bring any sort of noxious business or considerably altered neighborhood to their doorstep?

Columbia's plan made it as desirable as it is. Want less zoning regulation? That's your choice, but without changing laws here, that's only to be found elsewhere, typically in places that more resemble sprawl than this planned Town Center.

vacant lots rock said...

This happens all the time and is no different than what is happening in the rural west.

When we bought our house several years ago, we were the only house, surrounded by farms.

Today, 3 houses have sprouted up as neighbors, some as close as 300 feet. The farm on one side has been sold to developers, and the other farm is on its way.

Are 20 1.4 million dollar houses across the street, "ruining" my previous view of rolling acres of beans? No. Is it the same as a sewage plant? No. Is the lot in Town Center in danger of ever becoming a sewage treatment plant? No. Don't try to change the argument from what it truly is. NIMBY.

pzguru said...

Apples to apples. Oranges to Oranges. Had the WCI tower been another gardens style condo building to fit in with the surrounding environs, then I would have no problem with it, and I doubt anybody else would either. New SFD's going in next to existing SFD's is not the same as a 22 story high rise going in next to a 4-story garden style condo.

Thank you to ANON 1:04 a.m. for conveying a very good point.

Red Herring - I was using an analogy to convey a point, which you obviously missed.

pzguru said...

Apples to apples. Oranges to Oranges. Had the WCI tower been another gardens style condo building to fit in with the surrounding environs, then I would have no problem with it, and I doubt anybody else would either. New SFD's going in next to existing SFD's is not the same as a 22 story high rise going in next to a 4-story garden style condo.

Thank you to ANON 1:04 a.m. for conveying a very good point.

Red Herring - I was using an analogy to convey a point, which you obviously missed.

Anonymous said...

When the surrounding environs are mostly office buildings and restaurant space, I'd say that the condos are lucky that they aren't getting another American city building next to them. You know, if we're talking what was already there, long before the condos were put up.

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