Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Winds Are Shifting Part Two

After a pretty hectic morning it has finally slowed down a bit so I can finish up on the notes I have from last nights meeting. This morning I met Jud Malone at the Lakeside Coffee Shop in Town Center. Jud took copious notes last night and he was kind enough to share them with me.

GGP was represented by Greg Hamm. He bought along two of the town center master plan consultants, Alan Ward and Keith Bowers. They presented a revised plan for Symphony Woods that incorporated some of the concerns of the community. For example, a fire station is no longer included since it turns out that the fire department didn’t want one there anyway. Alan Ward spent some time on the rationale for the cultural connection between Merriweather Post Pavilion and the mall.

After they finished their presentation they took questions from the board. The following is the run down of some of the questions and responses that Jud gave me:

Suzanne Waller (Town Center) voiced concerns about traffic and GGP’s current liquidity problems. Greg acknowledged that times are tough but he was confident that this plan and his company would move forward regardless.

Evan Coren (Kings Contrivance) was concerned about the fact that GGP was suggesting that one third of the trees in Symphony Woods would be removed in this new plan. Keith responded that out of the current inventory of trees in Symphony Woods, 527 would be “impacted.” At the same time, 13,600 new trees would be added, not including street trees. You can see what “impacted” looks like here.

Evan was also concerned about the impact of this plan the on birds and other wildlife in Symphony Woods. There is no wildlife in Symphony Woods, except after concerts.

Cindy Coyle (Harpers Choice) wondered what happened to the fire station. Gregg explained what happened to the fire station.

Cindy noted that there was no connection to the lakefront. Gregg explained that they were not talking about the lakefront in this phase.

Pearl Atkinson-Stewart (Owen Brown) was concerned about a proposed shuttle that would ferry folks around the new town center areas. She recalled the days when CA ran a money losing bus service and she did not want CA to get back in that business. She said she liked the plan.

Mike Cornell (River Hill) noticed that there were more pathways in the proposed plan and thought that was a good thing. He also had questions about the new downtown partnership that would be formed to oversee Town Center. GGP is proposing that a new partnership be created between GGP, CA and Jud could not remember who else, to oversee four non profit agencies focusing on Environmental Sustainability, Housing, Culture, and Traffic in Town Center.

Tom O’Connor (Dorseys Search) wondered if the two barns at Merriweather, that GGP proposes turning into a children’s theatre center could be made “green.”. Alan Ward responded that they could be. He also expressed concerns over the connection to Oakland Mills.

Phil Kirsh (Wilde Lake) wasn’t sure why we needed two buildings ( a new CA building and a new library) in Symphony Woods. He also wanted to be sure that any roads in Symphony Woods would truly be “park drives.” Keith told him they would.

Henry Dagenais (Long Reach) made some comment about toad crossings he had seen in Europe. I wondered if Evan has ever heard of them?

He was also concerned that the planting of all these new trees not make Symphony Woods look like a “tree farm.”

Miles Coffman (Hickory Ridge) questioned whether “reforesting” Symphony Woods would preclude having Wine in the Woods. GGP’s plan envisions closing off the new “park drives” in Symphony Woods for events like Wine in the Woods.

After the board asked some more questions, residents were allowed to speak out. I won’t go the litany of those who spoke and what they said because quite frankly, at this point, I was tired of taking notes. I did want to mention though, that fellow local blogger Bill Santos, got up and spoke about a speech that Jim Rouse once gave about the folly of trying to stop development.

So there you are. If I got anything wrong, please post a comment and set the record straight.


Lacey said...

Here is something interesting I looked into after the meeting last night from the Wall Street Journal. If you use the interactive graph you can see an interesting trend in GGP stock... and what is more interesting are the links to articles underneath the interactive graph which discuss the 9 senior executives who dumped millions of dollars worth of stock on/around Sept. 26, days before the amendment submission.

how stable is GGP really???

Anonymous said...

Some complain that trees are being removed, and others complain that too many new trees are being planted. What a bunch of morons.

Lacey said...

On that note... anyone who was at the meeting Wednesday night knows that a few residents feel we need to be concerned about the woodpeckers and Orioles (birds not baseball apparently)... and if anyone did not see the looks on some of the Board members faces when the one woman was talking about the woodpeckers and dead trees trust me that it was priceless. I don't think they knew what to do with that one.

Anonymous said...

"There is no wildlife in Symphony Woods."

That claim is embarrassingly and blatantly wrong. Is it just one more misleading claim in a low-level, ongoing campaign attempting to depict Symphony Woods as not worthy of continuing to permanently preserve as contiguous, natural space?

"Bill Santos, got up and spoke about a speech that Jim Rouse once gave about the folly of trying to stop development."

It's not folly to oppose development - in, through, and over park forests and purposefully undeveloped stream and wetland buffers. It's merely common sense.

Jim Rouse originally considered developing what is now the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, but, after touring it with Aelred Geis, changed his plans to wisely preserve it. Similar thought went into preserving Symphony Woods and adjacent stream and river buffers.

I'm sure a *much* better plan can be achieved that doesn't require clearing swaths of trees through parks and forests to replace with clogged roads and buildings unnecessarily put where they shouldn't be.

Besides, many of those in opposition to this proposal aren't trying to stop development - they're trying to:
- sustain what has been developed well,
- responsibly steward our permanent open spaces,
- and obtain a 30-year plan that offers the best, most responsible development going forward that doesn't exceed Columbia's capacities, infrastructures, and tax bases.

Anon 11:28, a little civility goes a long way.