Sunday, September 06, 2009

Planning Board Redeems Itself

After nine months, the Howard County Planning Board has finally reached at least a partial decision on General Growth Properties’ master plan for the redevelopment of Columbia Town Center. According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun today, the “conceptual” portion of the plan has been approved.

“The plan calls for up to 5,500 new residential units, 4.3 million square feet of office space, 1.25 million square feet of retail space, new hotels, parking garages, environmental and roadway improvements and new cultural buildings.”

Perhaps the most significant imprint of the Planning Boards drawn out deliberations is the recommendation that that 5,500 housing units be allowed “only if added infrastructure can support them.”

A key piece of that “added infrastructure” is a new interchange at US Route 29 and Broken Land Parkway that would replace the existing South Entrance Road.
In this illustration of GGP’s plan, a new feeder road is shown connecting the west bound and east bound ramps from US Route 29 to Broken Land Parkway to the proposed Crescent neighborhood behind Merriweather Post Pavilion. Presumably the enhancements to this interchange will need something more this but since I’m not privy to any illustration that shows the full interchange I’ll reserve comment. The Planning Board has also indicated that a direct connection to Oakland Mills would be desirable.

That connection to Oakland Mills could also take the shape as something other than a traditional road such as one limited to some form of mass transit and pedestrian traffic.

And more importantly, where does the funding of all these road improvements come from?

Will Columbia now find itself competing with Konterra for state transportation dollars?

We’ve got a long way to go before we see any physical transformation of Town Center.

Still, this is progress and this action from the Planning Board gets a wag (not a big wag) of the wordbones tail on this gorgeous Labor Day weekend.