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Kittleman, HHC Sign Affordable Housing Agreements for Downtown Columbia

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and leaders of the Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC), Columbia Downtown Housing Corp. (CDHC) and the Howard County Housing Commission (Commission) have signed a Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreement (DRRA) and a 4-Party Agreement. They will implement the buildout of 900 units of affordable, full-spectrum housing in Downtown Columbia using a mix of tax credits, Housing Choice vouchers, inclusionary zoning, land conveyances, gap financing and other means.

Approved by the county council in November 2016, the DRRA is a 30-year binding agreement between Howard County and HHC. The 900 affordable units to be built will provide housing for those making up to 80% of Howard County’s median income. The 4-Party Agreement reflects the commitments in the DRRA and includes the CDHC and the Commission as partners to satisfy their obligations under the DRRA.

  • 200 Very Low Income units
  • 417 Low Income units
  • 200 Middle Income units
  • 83 homeownership/live-where-you work units

HHC will develop the “very low” and “middle income” units spread throughout all future residential apartment developments. It will contribute land to the Commission to facilitate the construction of the “low income” units, which will be included in mixed-income projects throughout the Downtown. HHC also will contribute funds to enable affordable housing development, provide gap financing to the CDHC for Commission development costs and contribute to a Housing Trust Fund.

The 900 units will be dispersed throughout new and old sites in Downtown Columbia, including the new Arts Center to be developed along with a new Toby’s Dinner Theatre, the Banneker Fire Station, an existing and new central library site and a future transit center. Video from the signing ceremony and news conference can be found at https://youtu.be/PXbzFmevlGs.

Howard County Comprehensive Assessment of Development Regs

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has announced the beginning of a comprehensive review of the county’s development regulations. A national leader in zoning practices, Clarion Associates, of Denver, will spend the next year conducting Phase 1 of an effort to rewrite and modernize development regulations. The first phase includes public input sessions and technical analysis to evaluate the zoning code, as well as regulations, policies and manuals related to land development.

“We know that our development regulations require significant updates. Our land use challenges have evolved, but regulations have not been updated,” said Kittleman. “This will be the most comprehensive review in years and will require significant participation from all stakeholders — including county government, residents, businesses and property owners. As Columbia turns 50 and we look at redevelopment projects around Howard County, this review will be critical in helping us address the environmental, transportation and other questions we must address.”

The public engagement process will involve a number of forums and stakeholder interviews, as well as surveys and other opportunities for community input, to hear from residents what is working and what needs to be improved.

Freshly to Open Facility in Howard, Plans to Add 500 Jobs

The gourmet, ready-to-eat meal delivery service Freshly will be opening its first East Coast facility in Howard County in the fall of 2017, adding 500 jobs during the next two years. The company will be locating in a 171,000-square-foot facility at 8704 Bollman Place, Savage.

“After searching the region we determined that Howard County would be an ideal location to expand our services to the East Coast,” said Michael Wystrach, CEO of Freshly. “After seeing all the food processing and distribution resources already located here, it made sense to me that we would want to be where we can get the freshest foods for our clients.”

Freshly’s meals are delivered fresh, never frozen, are free of gluten and processed sugars, and are made with all-natural products. The company also directs a focus to sustainability, as its products are shipped using recycled denim instillation, recyclable containers and are portion-controlled to help minimize food waste.

The facility will require an investment of $8 million in retrofitting and machinery to become operational. It will act as Freshly’s East Coast location for food preparation, cooking, assembly and distribution. “Over the last several years, we have seen a major surge in the number of food processing and distribution companies that are taking stock in the area,” said Larry Twele, CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.

ELEVI Associates Selects Light Point Security as Isolated Browser Partner

Light Point Security, located in the bwtech@UMBC Research & Technology Park, creators of the Light Point Web Full Isolation Platform, the only browser isolation technology to provide full isolation from all web content and seamless integration with existing browsers, has announced a strategic partnership with ELEVI Associates, a technology and cybersecurity provider serving customers in government and commercial markets throughout North America.

ELEVI, of Columbia, will incorporate Light Point Security’s web isolation platform into its security practice, enabling customers to significantly enhance their security posture.    Traditional security solutions rely on detection-based technologies to protect organizations and their data. However, detection-based products only provide protection against known attacks or known sources of malware and provide no protection against new attacks, leaving organizations exposed to new threats.

The Light Point Web Full Isolation Platform takes a different approach to security by treating all web content as malicious. Operating transparently to the user, Light Point Web fully isolates each user’s browsing session within a remote virtual environment. The dangerous task of executing website code is contained within that virtual environment, and only a real-time, malware-free interactive view of the website is sent to the user’s standard browser.

Statement by Kittleman on Repeal of Section 8.404 of Howard County Code

“I want to thank the County Council for acting quickly to pass emergency legislation to repeal section 8.404 of the Howard County Code, which prohibited the purchase, possession and use of electronic weapons, such as tasers and stun guns.

“In March 2016, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in Caetano v. Massachusetts that has been interpreted as effectively holding that electronic weapons are ‘bearable arms’ and that a complete ban on their sale, possession and use would violate the Second Amendment.

“In April 2016, the Chief of Police notified the County Council that, in light of Caetano, he had directed Howard County police officers not to enforce 8.404. My Administration was already working on legislation in response to the Caetano case.

“Then, on Feb. 2, 2017, Howard County was served with a lawsuit filed against Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County challenging their respective ordinances banning electronic weapons. The three Howard County plaintiffs claimed they wanted to purchase tasers to use for self-defense and were unable to purchase them because of 8.404. Howard County’s initial response to the lawsuit is due on Thursday, Feb. 23.

“The repeal of 8.404 will bring Howard County into compliance with the law and current practices and ensure that Howard County citizens can fully exercise their rights as quickly as possible. State limits on the sale and possession of tasers and stun guns remain in place.”

Expansion of Tax Credits Geared Toward Older Population, Retired Military

Applications are now being accepted for Howard County’s newly expanded Senior Tax Credit and new Aging-in-Place Tax Credit. In addition, the county’s Department of Finance will begin accepting applications starting this May for the expanded Livable Homes Tax Credit.

The recent expansion of the Senior Tax Credit lowered the eligibility age to 65; previously, it had been 70. The lower age expands the potential number of county property owners who could qualify for a 25% credit from 26,000 to more than 40,000.

In addition to being at least 65 years old, to qualify for the Senior Tax Credit residents must also use the property as their principal residence and not have gross household income of more than $81,200 for 2017. The combined net worth of the household must also not exceed $500,000, which includes all real property, cash, savings and investments, but does not include the dwelling on which the credit is sought, cash value of life insurance and any tangible personal property.

Applications for the Senior Tax Credit are due by Sept. 1; applications for the Aging in Place Tax Credit are due by April 1. Both can be found online at taxcredits.howardcountymd.gov. For more information, go to www.taxcredits.howardcountymd.gov; or contact the department’s Tax Credit line at 410-313-4076. Applications for the Livable Homes tax credit will be available from this website starting in May.

HCC Among Top 10 in State for Economic Impact Generated By International Students

Howard Community College (HCC) is one of the top 10 Maryland higher education institutions making the greatest economic impact generated by its international students. According to a recent analysis of economic data by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students at HCC contribute $8.7 million and support 55 jobs in the state’s economy.

Each year, NAFSA develops its economic analysis to examine the economic contributions of international students and their families to the U.S. economy. NAFSA used data from the 2015–16 academic year, with results shared online through the NAFSA’s Economic Value Tool.

The recent economic analysis comes as HCC enrolled a growing number of international students this spring. The college’s English Institute, a noncredit pathway program for international students learning English, enrolled 114 students from 36 countries, welcoming its highest number of new students in a spring term since 2011. The college’s international admissions office enrolled another 167 students from 45 different countries, who are pursuing their associate degree in the United States on F1 student visas.

In total, HCC serves 1,228 credit students and 2,161 noncredit students who are citizens of a country other than the United States. Combined, they represent 124 different countries. These students are pursuing their education as permanent residents, refugees, F1 students, other visa holders and more.

DOC Welcomes Dutch Cyber Companies for Exchange Program

The Maryland Department of Commerce (DOC) has welcomed five Netherlands-based cyber companies that are visiting Maryland through the end of March as part of the Maryland-Netherlands Cyber and Security Technologies Soft Landing Platform. During their stay, representatives from the Dutch companies will use the bwtech@UMBC Research & Technology Park as a base of operations while they explore the U.S. market and consider establishing a permanent presence in the state.

The Soft Landing program is the product of a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in October 2016 between the DOC and two Dutch economic development organizations — The Hague Security Delta and InnovationQuarter, the regional economic development agency for the Dutch province of Zuid-Holland.

The Dutch companies — European Cyber Resilience Research Network (ECRRN), Compumatica, Cybersprint, Guard from Above and Robin Radar Systems — are slated to attend networking events and several informational sessions about the cyber market in the United States, doing business with the federal government, and various financial and legal issues they will need to consider when establishing a business presence in the U.S. The companies also will have access to the guidance and advice of their hosts from the DOC and bwtech@umbc, as well as the research park’s entrepreneurs-in-residence.

Representatives from four Maryland-based cyber companies — Ausley Associates, System 1 Inc., Canali Inc. and the Credentialed Mobile Device Security Professional (CMDSP) — have traveled to the Netherlands through the Soft Landing program, where they will be connected with similar resources to facilitate their entry into the European market.

To learn more, contact Jessica Reynolds, the regional manager for Europe with the DOC’s Office of International Investment & Trade, at 410-767-6435 or Jessica.Reynolds@Maryland.gov.

MGM Resorts Adopts BCLC’s GameSense Program

“When you gamble, use your Game­Sense.” That’s the message MGM Resorts International will be sharing with its customers across North America as part of an agreement with BCLC, British Columbia’s provincial gambling corporation, to license its responsible gambling program, GameSense.

MGM, which operates the new destination and casino at National Harbor, anticipates having GameSense fully integrated into all of its properties across the USA within the year. The agreement, announced at the fifth annual New Horizons in Responsible Gambling Conference in Vancouver, B.C., marks the first time a program of this kind is being licensed by any commercial gaming company in North America.

Introduced by BCLC in 2009, Game­Sense is player-focused responsible gambling program that encourages players to adopt behaviours and attitudes that can reduce the risk of developing gambling disorders. MGM is adopting GameSense to enhance awareness and education about responsible gambling for players and guests and, in doing so, raising the standards within the industry.

As part of the agreement, MGM has committed to funding $1 million over five years towards a research partnership between BCLC, MGM and the University of Nevada Las Vegas’s (UNLV) International Gaming Institute. UNLV will help facilitate development of a consortium of internationally renowned experts in responsible gambling, and also will work closely with the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Gambling Research.