Monday, July 28, 2008

CA’s Town Center Amateur Hour


Columbia Councilperson Cynthia Coyle (Harpers Choice) is promoting her own vision of Symphony Woods. In an amazing display of hubris, she and presumably others on the board are suggesting that they have a better plan than the one prepared by professional landscape architects, planners and ecological restoration experts. The Coyle vision is detailed in the picture above.

Not exactly awe inspiring is it?

A carousel dropped down into the middle of the park would almost certainly be an economic failure. It may look pretty but it is doubtful that it can draw enough business on its own to survive without hefty subsidies from CA.

Councilperson Coyle has further tried to rally support for her vision by propagating falsehoods about GGP’s plans. In an email to her supporters she states “that much of what is currently known as Symphony Woods (along the front of Little Patuxent Parkway) would be generally cleared of trees. The plan proposes buildings to be constructed in place of the woods. The buildings would include a new fire station, a new library and museum and the new CA Headquarters.” This statement is both inaccurate and misleading.

First of all, it was CA who first proposed putting their new headquarters in Symphony Woods, albeit at different location closer to Toby’s. Secondly, the idea of a new library and museum was merely a suggestion or “vision” of what could be. Ms Coyle certainly knows that. Thirdly, yes there is a new firehouse in the plan and it is on GGP property that is not part of CA owned Symphony Woods. Surely Councilperson Coyle knows where the property lines are.

Yes it is true that GGP’s proposal calls for a new road through the park and new “cultural amenity” buildings along the Little Patuxent Parkway frontage of Symphony Woods. These developments would necessitate the removal of some trees but it would certainly not result in the park being “generally cleared of trees.” Ms Coyle also fails to mention the reforestation with over 9,000 new trees that GGP has proposed.

Then again, what to expect from someone who has difficulty spelling symphony?

18 comments:

JessieX said...

Oh dear.

Anonymous said...

Hubris? Not WB. He’s a kitten, veritable cream puff.

Spelling? Oh my, never. Not even in the name of the blog which adds an extra “s” to “tale”, as in towards, yous, that ways.

When asked to take a leadership role, CA responds by taking the role and in the same week the reaction is to disagree with their leadership. I guess when you ask for “leadership” you actually mean that they should incorporate all your ideas and none other.

There’s nothing wrong with the plan above – just that it wasn’t yours. Or mines :)

Anonymous said...

WB
I was impressed that Ms Coyle could come up with an alternative plan within a week or so that had taken the community and GGP several years to develop. I guess the CA administrative people will have a tent city next to the carousel stringing canvas tree to tree. I doubt the carousel will go unused as you surmise.
The CA board could use it for meetings and go round and round and round and round and round.
HH

Anonymous said...

Children's Garden? You've got to be kidding me! What, with the new pool, ice rink, and library, we need to give them a garden too?

I lobby for an adults-only garden, not a children's garden. Beer and porn all around!

Anonymous said...

"Not exactly awe inspiring is it?"

It depends on one's ability to appreciate the beauty of permanent open space remaining permanent open space.

"A carousel dropped down into the middle of the park would almost certainly be an economic failure."

A park's or forest's purpose isn't to be an economic success. The primary purpose of both can be better described to be complimentary parts of sustainable communities.

I'd rather see CA's headquarters located in already developed space, not consuming limited- and what is supposed to be permanent open space, regardless who first suggested the truly unnecessary idea of putting a building in Symphony Woods first.

"Secondly, the idea of a new library and museum was merely a suggestion or “vision” of what could be."

And yet, the GGP illustrations of some of the impacted areas published over and over do show buildings being built in those locations, replacing those portions of the woods. GGP's illustrations show a road going through where the current library is, so it isn't a huge leap to conclude that one of those buildings replacing forest in Symphony Woods along LPP is being suggested as a replacement library. At some of GGP's presentations, the replacement library was described in that location.

So should we consider that road going through the existing library to be a "mere vision", too, as well as the 5,500 additional residences, millions of square feet of office space beyond Columbia's original plan, and 13,000+ car trips congesting traffic? Just suggestions of what could be, right?

You're right that the southeast corner of GWP and LPP belongs to GGP: that would be GGP-owned forest property cut down for a new fire station if it were placed there, not CA-owned forest. But what's the reason for even proposing moving the existing Banneker fire station to there anyway? Is it that much larger equipment would be needed for much taller buildings, but that equipment can't fit in the existing station? Do they even make engines that can reach the entirety of the proposed skyscrapers? What would happen with the existing Banneker Road fire station and property? Lots of unclear details.

"These developments would necessitate the removal of some trees"

'Some' trees would be 'removed'? To where would they be moved? Oh, you mean eliminated/chopped down/destroyed.

How many is "some"? Hundreds? Thousands? If GGP can provide the number of younger, smaller trees they're offering to plant with the specificity of 9,250 or whatever number that was, it would be nice if they would also provide a similarly clear number of how many large, mature trees will be cut down. They did geolocate the existing trees, so they have a pretty good idea, right? So, the number to be cleared should be discussed just as prominently as the number of younger trees to be planted (as well as percentage of planted saplings expected to reach 40 years' maturity). Similar specificity of proposed tree clearings elsewhere would also help the community better understand what is proposed.

If Ms. Coyle's statement said much of Symphony Woods' LPP frontage would be generally cleared of trees, how is that inaccurate?

"Yes it is true that GGP’s proposal calls for a new road through the park"

"A" new road? Isn't there more than one new road proposed to be cut through the park? More than two? More than three?

I think CA should instead suggest Symphony Woods remain intact, but extend its natural setting across LPP, placing a water feature on GGP land north of LPP, providing a reflective vista of Symphony Woods from Market Square, with this natural promenade reaching to Market Square, the aforementioned "cultural amenities" on this north side of LPP along this promenade. And deed the portion of the promenade from LPP to Market Square to the County for a truly public square. That would be a cool vista indeed.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:27,

Thanks for the clarification.

Anonymous said...

I say they bring back the children's petting zoo that was there way back when. Always a popular attraction for kids.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! The CA counter proposal looks like it was created by someone in elementary school.

Dave W said...

Is this the same CA Board that spent a year trying to figure out how to put a simple fence around the playground at Lake Elkhorn a few years ago?

link

Anonymous said...

Mr. W., you most likely already know CA Board's membership is not entirely the same as a few years ago and that the Elkhorn tot lot safety matter was a serious one for the community.

Anon 4:42, I've seen many quality illustrations from people of all ages, the one above being more than sufficient to convey the intended concept. I also, sadly, feel that illustration is more thorough in showing its impacts than GGP's illustrations have been.

I've also seen elementary students spell well enough to know that counterproposal is one word, not two.

wordbones said...

Anon 11:11 PM,

If you think that the CA Planning and Strategy Committee drawing shown here is more thorough than the GGP drawings then you must not have read or reviewed GGP's draft master plan. That statement is simply ludicrous.

-wb

Anonymous said...

WAKE UP COLUMBIANS!

While the city may be thriving now, you've got to look towards the future. Generation Y grew up in old Columbia and we don't want it to look the same forever. A walkable downtown is a HUGE step in becoming a more sustainable environment and I personally couldnt be happier with almost all the GGP's plans. These things need to happen to bring Columbia into its next stage of growth. If not, Columbia will probably die with the Boomers. Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:20, I find your comment, lacking any substantive facts, universally unconvincing.

"While the city may be thriving now, you've got to look towards the future."

Who isn't looking towards the future? If you look at the future traffic impacts of what's proposed (another 13,000+ daily car trips), the signficant future traffic woes the traffic studies each predict are grave, jamming many intersections beyond what current traffic regulations allow.

"Generation Y grew up in old Columbia and we don't want it to look the same forever."

(-5 for beginning speaking in the third person, but ending speaking in the first person.)

Old Columbia? I've never heard that term before. Is that like old iPhone?

It sounds like your individual taste may range towards the more fad-centric end of the consumer spectrum, which is certainly fine for music, fashion, and tech, but healthy communities (and generations, too) strive for sustainability and continuity, incorporating holistically-appropriate changes, but not grossly out-of-band change from planned, sustainable communities' designs and infrastructure.

Do you really want Columbia to look like multiple roads have been cut through multiple open space areas that are supposed to be maintained as permanent open space?

"A walkable downtown is a HUGE step in becoming a more sustainable environment and I personally couldnt be happier with almost all the GGP's plans."

How is Town Center not walkable now?? How does adding 13,000+ daily car trips and more congested intersections constitute becoming a more sustainable environment?

"These things need to happen to bring Columbia into its next stage of growth."

Based on what? Columbia's existing zoning still allows for additional development, but what's being proposed goes far, far beyond that, in many ways turning Columbia into something far more like denser Chevy Chase or Silver Spring.

"If not, Columbia will probably die with the Boomers. Sad but true."

Doom and gloom? Is that the tactic being used here? Money Magazine rankings provide sufficient evidence to the contrary - Columbia's quite alive and continues to be.

If only we could jump to a point maybe 70+ years beyond a planned community's inception to see if it can be sustained and continue to thrive while still preserving its purposefully-included open spaces and parks, thereby seeing how wrong your 'doom-and-gloom if we don't build like crazy' prediction would be. Thankfully, here's a current publication on this very topic.

WB, did you count up those proposed roads through Symphony Woods yet?

Wake up? Dream on....

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:37AM

"How is Town Center not walkable now??"
When have you ever walked anywhere in Town Center? And plus, where would you go? There's nothing there but the mall! Oh, the lakefront? Just a sad hodge podge of restaurants from an idea that sounded cool in the 70s.

As for density, while Silver Spring may have a more built up downtown area and as a whole covers almost double the area Columbia does, it's population is still more than 10,000 less (76,540 people for Silver Spring in 2000 compared to 88,254 people in Columbia the same year)

As for the Money Magazine piece, take a look at the median age for Columbia compared across the other cities. 39, the 3rd oldest on the top ten list. Also, yes it's thriving while the Boomers have the spending power. What happens when that spending power turns over to Gen X? Then Gen Y?

Also, why such a huge fuss over LESS THAN HALF of the 40-acres that Symphony Woods covers (out of the 14,000 acres that make up Columbia's wooded areas, parks, lakes and streams)?

And yes, Old Columbia. Like the old mall. And before Target. And before Snowden Square. And when Broken Land was just one road, not divided. Columbia's already changed so much in just 20 years. These plans call for less change in the next 20 years than we've already seen. But it's okay, I know old people are often afraid of change.

Take a minute to critically think about realistic expectations. I also recommend you read up on your sustainable city planning because I suspect you've never studied anything on it.

And the only thing green about greenbelt is its name.
(And -5 for finding a sad glipse of superiority in correcting someone's grammar)

Anonymous said...

anon 137:

Spending power? Wait until the boomers cannot force thier political will on younger gens. That will be a day when Columbia will shine.

Tom said...

anon said and anon replied and anon repeated an assertion then anon complained . . .
What kind of real conversation is this?

When people can't stand behind their own words the title of this string
"CA's Town Center Amateur Hour" has more meaning.

Anonymous said...

"When have you ever walked anywhere in Town Center?"

Lately and not-so-lately - the Lakefront (the lakefront itself as well as Clyde's, Tomato Palace, Sushi Sono), Symphony Woods, the Mall of course, the Central Library, HCC's campus, Merriweather, over to Wilde Lake, That's Amore, the Spear Center, .... If all you see when considering the lakefront is a hodge podge of restaurants, please take a moment the next time you're there to look about a little more.

"As for density, while Silver Spring may have a more built up downtown area and as a whole covers almost double the area Columbia does, it's population is still more than 10,000 less (76,540 people for Silver Spring in 2000 compared to 88,254 people in Columbia the same year)"

Silver Spring is double the area of Columbia? Your apparent source for the population figures, the 2000 Census, doesn't think so, stating their areas (square miles) as:
Columbia: 27.56
Silver Spring: 9.42.
So, Silver Spring is actually about only 1/3 the area of Columbia, but has about 7/8th's Columbia population.

The 2000 Census also lists their densities (people per sq. mile):
Columbia: 3,202
Silver Spring: 8,124,
showing Silver Spring to be more than 250% denser than Columbia.

Should you have any doubts, please review. If you want to refer to other areas as being part of Silver Spring, too, then please cite an authoritative source for that area's population.

And doesn't this proposal rocket Town Center's density well past double Silver Spring's density above?

"As for the Money Magazine piece, take a look at the median age for Columbia compared across the other cities. 39, the 3rd oldest on the top ten list. Also, yes it's thriving while the Boomers have the spending power. What happens when that spending power turns over to Gen X? Then Gen Y?"

And you draw what conclusion from that statistic? Perhaps Columbian's have a longer lifespan (a good thing), meaning the median age for a normally balanced population would be greater than a place where people don't live as long. Or perhaps it means that families in Columbia like Columbia's planned community enough to stay within the community more frequently, also a good thing.

"Also, why such a huge fuss over LESS THAN HALF of the 40-acres that Symphony Woods covers (out of the 14,000 acres that make up Columbia's wooded areas, parks, lakes and streams)?"

It's permanent open space, labeled as such by the developer. Good planning avoids carving up anything set aside as permanent open space. "Oops, we goofed, we now need (want) to put roads through this park, and put the library and other buildings in this park, and put a bridge over the scenic lake and wetlands" isn't something developers should then say and expect the public to not object. So, what again is the justification for dramatically increasing Town Center's density beyond what current infrastructure and those already developed and zoned-for-development areas can support, especially when additional development potential still exists within current zoning that doesn't require such sacrifices?

Further, the consumption of these portions of Symphony Woods is only a portion of the overall environmental impacts this proposal would bring to lands, bodies of water, and habitats belonging to GGP, CA, the County, and the State, many of which have not been made clear to the public.

"These plans call for less change in the next 20 years than we've already seen. But it's okay, I know old people are often afraid of change."

Over the last 40 years, Town Center has seen about 4,600 people added to it. The changes over the last 20 years have only been, with very little deviation, a continuation of the original plan. But these new plans call for dramatically exceeding that original plan's density, adding not less, but far more than 4,600, bringing its total population to something over four times that total, right?

How much of Columbia's designated permanent open space was sacrificed during the last 20 years? Very, very little. How many roads were put through Symphony Woods in the last 20 years? 0

It's not a matter of fear, but of responsibility, and not by any particular generation, but by every generation, on behalf of all future generations. 20 year 'visions' (what happened to the 30 year plan that was the goal at the beginning of this process?) and even shorter-term plans by some need to take a back seat to responsible ongoing stewardship of our community. Existing zoning still allows for profitable change.

"Take a minute to critically think about realistic expectations. I also recommend you read up on your sustainable city planning because I suspect you've never studied anything on it."

Ok, let's discuss realistic expectations.

Traffic
The traffic studies keep coming back saying it's not going to work, jamming many intersections beyond what current regulations allow. Miles per gallon sitting at intersections: 0. Pollution per mile sitting at intersections: plenty.

Schools
Despite the significantly increased population, no additional schools are included in the proposal?

Water
Almost all of eastern Howard County's water (Columbia included) comes from Baltimore City's water system's Liberty Reservoir. Baltimore City predicts the region's population, if too much growth occurs, will exceed their water system's reservoir supply, requiring them to tap the Susquehanna River for additional water. The Susquehanna's water is quite polluted, containing animal manure and untreated sewage (and other things).

Sewer
Far, far more acres than even what's proposed for Symphony Woods will be disturbed through stream areas and wetlands areas to add additional sewer capacity for this (and other) increased density.

"And the only thing green about greenbelt is its name."
One more far-from-reality claim. Greenbelt.

Joey said...

Hey Anon 1:28 pm

Suck it.