Sunday, November 15, 2009

The People Have Spoken

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.”


Anonymous said...

Sigaty as the Oracle? Oh please. WB as the accurate reporter? God help us.

Tom said...

As per usual those opposed to the bills showed their frustration with the tone of their arguments and the direction of their attacks neither of which added positively to the discussion. I give Mary Kay and the rest of the Council members high marks for handling the large number of speakers and showing interest in what they had to say.
I would say after tomorrow evening the "public input" portion of this process will be over. And the balance of the process is now in the hands of the DPZ staff and the CC. Thank goodness. This public charrette has gone on longer than any charrette was ever intended.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Tom,
unfortunately we have had the tyranny of the minority (sometimes a single person) for sometime. We have a real problem with the legal definition of "standing" that may rear its ugly head again when a Nimby wants to slow things down.

Anonymous said...

Morning speakers two to one in favor of CB58 & 59, hmm?

Let's run down the list of speakers before lunch, shall we?

My impression was -
Davis: yes, but wants more options for upper end housing and oddly thinks credit should be given for existing low-cost housing up to a mile away
Delegate Bobo: no
Cosentino: no
Bailey: yes
Schwarz: no
Klein: no
Arminger: yes, claims delaying would be disastrous (anyone who tells me to hurry up to avoid impending doom and sign contracts, especially a developer, gets me pretty suspicious and usually waits quite a while longer)
Pivar: no
Eagan: yes
Thompson: yes (realtor who said he's willing to ride a bus. I've *never* met a realtor riding a bus)
Yesley: no
Engelke: yes, architect who worked on Reston and Silver Spring
Green: yes, against full spectrum housing
Lewis: yes, architect,planner,consultant (I thought he lived in DC, not Howard County?)
Lancos: yes, thinks plan's requirements should be more flexible
Cooper: no
Russell: no
Clark: yes, President Chamber of Commerce

That's pretty much a 1:1 ratio, not 2:1, with at least one of the "in favors" expressing concern nonetheless about 20-story buildings.

If you're representative of the "in favor" side's ability to judge proper ratios, that would indicate the correct amount of density should be half as much as the amount requested, the buildings half as tall, and the traffic allowed half as much. Thanks for the perspective.

Anonymous said...

Clark: Yes, President Howard County Chamber?
I'm confused Anonymous 7:09PM
Who is this Clark person?
I thought Pam Klahr was President of the Howard County Chamber? Your veracity is suffering. How many more glaring mistakes or misconceptions do you have?

Trevor Greene said...

I'm so excited! I finally got mentioned in this blog. I am an avid fan, Wordbones, and read your blog daily to stay on top of local issues. It has been a secret dream of mine to get mentioned here.

The way I got mentioned was in a comment, and its only my last name, and my last name is spelled wrong, but that's fine with me.

"Green: yes, against full spectrum housing"

Rolls off the tongue, don't it?

I wish I knew you were at the meeting. I would have said, "hi." BTW, I am the dentist from River Hill who is opening an office in Odenton.

wordbones said...


I think I caught the tail end of your testimony last Saturday. "Green: yes, against full spectrum housing," is pretty funny.

Thanks for being a reader of Tales of Two Cities. I'll be at the Lakeside cafe in Town Center this Friday at 1:30 to tape the next installment of our podcast, "And Then There's That." If you are not pulling teeth, stop by and say hello.

And congratulations on your growing business.