Well at least some of them have spoken. Yesterday the County Council held an extraordinary all day Saturday public hearing on General Growth’s proposed redevelopment program for Columbia Town Center. When I stopped by around 11:00 AM testimony favoring GGP’s plans outnumbered those opposed by about a two to one margin according to several people I spoke with who had been there since the hearing began.
Last night I ran into Council Chair Mary Kay Sigaty at a function in Columbia. She confirmed that generally, there were more people testifying in favor of GGP than there were opposed.
You probably wouldn’t get that impression from reading this story by Larry Carson in The Sun today. Of all the people who gave thoughtful and intelligent testimony, including Roger K Lewis, professor emeritus at the University Of Maryland School Of Architecture, Larry instead quoted Bridget Mugane, a community activist who represents an aging and increasingly irrelevant constituency. Instead of offering constructive criticism Bridget resorted to name calling by labeling GGP “a bankrupt company.”
While it is certainly true that GGP is currently under the protection of the bankruptcy court, it is also quite likely that GGP will emerge from bankruptcy a stronger company by next summer. The company’s stock which traded as low a $0.30 a share back in the spring has already rebounded to over $4.00 a share.
It should also be noted that GGP has already expended approximately $20 million preparing a new plan for Town Center.
Sarah Breitenbach also covered the hearing for the Columbia Flier. Her piece was a little more balanced and detailed. She included a rebuttal to Bridget from Greg Hamm, the vice president of Master Planned Communities for GGP.
“He said the legislation before the council would create more development standards, such as building height restrictions, than currently exist.
“The bigger risk is that we sell it off piecemeal under the current zoning,” Hamm said.”