If you read some of the Letters to the Editor on Explore Howard or some of the postings on the HCC listserv, you might get the impression that General Growth’s plans for the redevelopment of Columbia Town Center will put the county on the long road to ruin. The fact of the matter is that there are some disgruntled members of the community that, having failed to win mainstream support for their efforts to derail the process, have resorted to promulgating misinformation.
For instance, Russ Swatek, the Columbia Council representative for the Village of Long Reach recently wrote that “virtually all” the proponents of the plan “had real estate or a business that stood to gain directly or indirectly from the increased density and increased retail population base.”
I suppose if you count home ownership as real estate this may be accurate, but then again that would presumably include Mr. Swatek as well. The truth is that while some proponents, such as yours truly, hope to capitalize on the opportunities this redevelopment may present, for the most part they are ordinary citizens like former CA president Padraic Kennedy or the General Manager of Victoria Gastro Pub, Tori Marriner. Mr. Swatek has insulted at least a thousand people with this statement. Nicely done Russ.
On the HCC listserv, Columbia architect Tim Sosinski claimed that “Achieving a walkable environment will be set aside in the interest of doing profitable remote sites for the next 20 years.”
Wow! I like Tim and I respect his community involvement but this is just simply not true and he knows it. Keep in mind that Columbia does not exist in a vacuum and that just because GGP will have the right to build 5,500 housing units doesn’t mean they will sell. In order to sell those units GGP will need to create a special place that distinguishes Columbia from all of the other planned developments in the area. That will be good for Columbia and for GGP. Our interests are perfectly aligned.
The mother of all misinformation is former Columbia Council representative Barbara Russell. She often describes herself as Columbia’s first mother and I can only suppose that she thinks that gives her some sort of exalted status in all matters Columbia. Mothers are always right after all.
In her letter to the editor today she claims “From the beginning, GGP has committed to pay for almost nothing, not roads, not major water and sewer lines, not schools or school sites, not fire stations or fire station sites, not below-market-rate housing (affordable, full-spectrum, call it what you like), not cultural amenities, not parking garages, not sidewalks and not for the upkeep of the downtown area it developed.”
For starters, GGP has paid for a world class plan for Town Center. They have hired some of the best talent that money can buy to design a Town Center that will once again make Columbia a paradigm of smart community planning. Barbara also knows that the developers will pay for all of those items she mentioned as the plan gets built out. I think Barbara believes everyone is stupid but her.
I could go on but I think you get the point.