Every so often I’ll write a column, sit on it for day or so, then tear it up and start all over. That was the story with my August column in The Business Monthly.
The August column started out being narrative of sorts about the July meeting of Columbia Association Board of Directors. This was the meeting where a motion, put forward by the boards Planning and Strategy Committee, was to be discussed and voted on. The motion was intended to lay out ground rules for the Columbia Association staff before they sat down with representatives of General Growth Properties to discuss the company’s draft master plan for town center. A key element of the motion was the stipulation that no new roads or buildings would be allowed in Symphony Woods Park. This stipulation was in response to GGP’s suggestion that the park become a more widely used and accessible amenity and a gateway to a renovated Merriweather Post Pavilion. GGP is also proposing that this ‘gateway” would also be an ideal place to locate a new headquarters for the association and possibly a new and larger central library.
Unlike most CA board meetings which are lucky to attract more than ten people, this particular meeting was packed. By the time the meeting got underway it was standing room only. Interestingly, the audience seemed to be evenly split between those who supported the motion and those who felt that it was too constraining and counter productive. The resident testimony ran the gamut from the absurd with comments like “When I moved here I was told that nothing more would be built in town center” to the comical “New roads and buildings in the park would be illegal.”
The attendees also shared a common characteristic. They were mostly boomers. The only young person I saw was a guy named Matt Petr. I told him I was heartened to see a young face in the crowd. He explained to me that he was there to get CA to sign off on some utility easements. In other words, he was working. He didn’t have a clue about the big debate of the evening but he was profoundly affected by it. Matt didn’t get to go before the board until just before 11:00 PM. I guess he got to know Columbia pretty well that night.
At the end of the meeting the motion was modified to allow staff to consider “limited new roadways or buildings of a park related scale.” That sounds ambiguous enough for me.
So I wrote about the meeting. I included all the good quotes I had collected. Then I put it aside and went for a ride. I drove into Town Center, parked in Symphony Woods and looked around. That’s when it hit me.
What happened to the Columbia I used to know?
I went back to my computer and started all over. You can find this month’s column here.
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