Monday, October 30, 2006

And Speaking Of Downtown Plans...

Okay, I have to admit I got energized by two letters to the editor in the Howard section of The Sun Yesterday. One was by Marylou Semones in support of The Plaza residences in Town Center and the other was by Robert Tennenbaum urging his fellow downtown task force members to get off the dime and move the Town Center planning process forward.

Amen to Ms. Semones and Mr. Tennenbaum.

As far as the Plaza Residences go, enough is truly enough. Let's give WCI communities their building permit and get this beautiful building started. First of all it is in the right place, not on the lake where it might obstruct views but right on by Little Patuxent Parkway. Secondly, yes , it is a tall boy but really, when you consider that is actually downhill from the Mall, it will probably end up (visually anyway) not much taller than Merrill Lynch building.

As for the rest of the Town Center plan, it is time for action, not more study.

The largest landowner in Town Center, General Growth Properties, has shown more patience with this "planning" process than could reasonably be expected. Keep in mind that they still have the right to put big box retail and offices behind Merriweather without a new plan. It was primarily Ken Ullman and Judd Malone (former Town Center Columbia Council rep) who convinced GGP to get on board with the county and comunity to consider a wholistic plan. Now both of these guys are being attacked for doing just that. Judd Malone lost his reelection to the council and now it sounds like Ken's opponent, Chris Merdon, has made a campaign issue out of it.

No good deed goes unpunished they say.

Theodore Roosevelt put it best:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. "


Ray said...

who cares?

Anonymous said...

General Growth can only do what the underlying zoning and available building permits allow it to do. A landowner is governed by law and zoning and has no rights otherwise.

wordbones said...

Existing new town zoning allows GGP to develop the remaining parcels of land in Town Center with a mix of retail and office.

That IS the underlying zoning and that IS within their rights.

Anonymous said...

There's a few other legitimate limitations that also have to be considered.

Such development and the traffic upgrades they'd need would be constricted by laws protecting against incursion into the floodplain, streams, wetlands, and their accompanying buffers near South Entrance Road and Route 29.

Tom Berkhouse said...

It is funny how you "credit" Ulman and Malone for getting GGP to take a wholistic approach to Town Center. You obviously don't know the history of the Crescent Property. It was Ulman who orchestrated the opposition to the Crescent Sketch Plan (which came after the rezoning application by GGP was denied). The Sketch Plan did not propose any specific development - it merely was to establish the underlying zoning for the parcels and to establish what the permitted uses could be. The zoning proposed by GGP was exactly what was established by Jim Rouse on the Preliminary Development Plan (PDP) for Columbia, back in the early 1960's. So, the plan should have been approved, and then future site plans for actual development would come back to the Planning Board for another round of review and approval. GGP did propose big box retail, office, and some senior housing as permitted uses in their application. At the second hearing, GGP took big box retail off the table and said that approval could be conditioned on NOT allowing big box retail (smaller retail would be ok). Yet, Ulman and the other opponents KEPT on opposing the sketch plan (Ulman actually ordered the Planning Board, chaired by his good friend and campaign contributor, Tammy Citara-Manis, to block approval of the plan, which is why the plan dragged on through many months of hearings before GGP withdrew it), which ultimately was never approved. GGP can't move forward with ANY development until a Sketch Plan is approved. Ulman is the person who has caused all of the delay in the "planning" process. Ulman is the one who made a back room deal with GGP to get them more density, and he tried (and is now failing) to do so by holding the phony "charette" meetings. I'm sure that GGP is not too happy about how Ken's little plan is failing to deliver them what Ken promised to deliver. So, please don't try to credit Ken with opening the process - he was only trying to deliver on a deal he made with GGP under the guise of "saving Merriweather Post Pavillion".

wordbones said...

You know Tom...

It is really tiresome when people begin their diatribe by stating things like "You obviously don't know the history of the Crescent property."

What can you possibly hope to accomplish when you begin a dialogue that way?

I know more about the development process and the various insundry players that you may suspect.

Tom Berkhouse said...

Well, you shouldn't start a posting with a bunch of misinformation and so forth. I attended every one of the Crescent Sketch Plan hearings, so I know what happened and what did NOT happen.

Your criticism of me was absent of any meaning. If I mistated something in my comments, then feel free to point that out.

You and Hayduke have a lot in common. YOu both don't address facts - you only offer musings.

Very disappointing.

wordbones said...


You seem to carry around a great deal of anger and perhaps that is what gets in the way of clear thinking.

Attending every sketch plan meeting does not necessarily equate to being knowledgable.

Accusing Ken of making a back room deal with GGP for more density without hard evidence is reckless and unwarrented. You might try phrasing it like "I suspect that a back room deal was made..."

That might come accross better.

GGP was not intially keen on the charette but Ken and Jud helped sell it to them by making the point that it would be far better to have the county and the community on board with the process. This is a fact.

To call the charette "phony" diminishes the efforts and time of of a great deal of people who are dedicated to making this community a better place.

Just because you don't like the outcome it doesn't mean that it was nefarious.

Then again, I doubt you are ready to hear this either.

Tom Berkhouse said...

And just because you DO like the outcome doesn't mean that it wasn't nefarious.

My knowledge of the plans and the process, extends well beyond simply attending the Crescent Property hearings.

And, don't mistake my passion for anger. Everyone should be outraged by corruption by government officials. And, I have conveyed many of the facts of the situation to back up my assertions. SOmehow though, and necessarily you, certain bloggers and supporters of the officials I criticize, want to turn a blind eye to the facts and dismiss it as partisan attacks. If it's true, then it's not a partisan attack.

wordbones said...


I caution you to be very careful when making claims of corruption without hard evidence.

I am willing to listen to facts backed up by evidence but I will not tolerate baseless accusations.