The Howard County Council heard overwhelmingly favorable testimony from the Long Reach community relating to proposed plans for the village center’s redevelopment, which were submitted by Orchard Development Corp., of Ellicott City. Orchard plans to purchase 7.7 acres of the depressed center that is currently owned by the county.
Columbia Association (CA) President and CEO Milton Matthews said he believes the proposed development plan will reposition Long Reach Village Center in the marketplace and “will bring about economic success and, over time, the village center will become an attractive destination.”
Matthews acknowledged that a new indoor tennis facility under construction at Long Reach should be considered in terms of how it integrates with the proposal.
“There is a possibility of pathways there,” he said, terming the tennis facility “a long overdue asset.”
Matthews also informed the council of CA’s desire to update the Stonehouse community center and its arts center in the village center.
“They’re 1960s vintage,” he said. “I don’t want those properties to look like sore thumbs with the redevelopment of the area.”
Among CA’s option, Mathews said, would be to renovate the properties or sell them to the master developer, noting that the issue would have to be brought up before the CA board for consideration.
Nina Basu, speaking for the Long Reach Community Association, expressed concern that Stonehouse has seen a decline in rental activity since 2015 because of its appearance. “We want to sink money back into community services,” she said, but asserted no CA assessment dollars or tax revenues are reaching the property.
David Tohn, CEO of BTS Software Solutions, said Orchard’s plan for the Village Center makes sense from a business perspective. He cited a Howard County Economic Development Authority study that estimated that 730 jobs, $39 million in labor income, $105 million in economic activity and $4.2 million in tax revenues would be generated during the construction phase.
Post-construction, the numbers suggest 215 jobs, $11.3 million in labor income, $21.7 million in economic output and a sustained $1.3 million in taxes.
“The gut feeling is that the numbers worked are pretty close to accurate,” Tohn said. “From that standpoint, it appears the math works along with the concept.”
Leaders and congregants from the Celebration Church in the Village Center raised the only dispute over redevelopment plans, saying they felt their congregation was being ignored. Pastor Robbie Davis also raised concern over a lack of communication with Orchard, and said church leaders were concerned about church property having been “erased” from drawings used by Orchard to promote the project.
“We are excited about the reimagining of the village center and supportive of the need for development and redevelopment,” he said. “We desire to be a partner in this process and do not want to see this slowed down. We will continue to stand as a partner in the village center. It’s our desire not to be marginalized in the process, but to have a seat at the table.”
Full Education Board
In June, the council approved the Howard County Executive’s appointment of Ananta Hejeebu to fill an open seat on the county’s seven-member Board of Education.
Hejeebu, founder and managing partner of Howard Tech Advisors, is a 23-year resident of Howard County, with two children attending and one recent graduate of the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS). He serves on the Howard County Transition Commission for Youth with Disabilities and the Howard County Public School System Budget Review Committee.
“We were fortunate to have many talented, qualified candidates express interest in this position, and I appreciate their willingness to apply,” Kittleman said. “Mr. Hejeebu brings the right experience and commitment to the position. … As the board goes through this transition phase with an interim superintendent, Mr. Hejeebu’s management experience and community involvement will assist the board in making decisions.”
The council vote is scheduled for the July legislative session.
HCPSS Acting Superintendent Michael Martirano presented the 2017 Feasibility Study to the Howard County Board of Education during its June 22 meeting. The board presentation marks the beginning of a months-long process to plan attendance area adjustments for implementation in the 2018–19 school year.
The initial recommendation provides for a comprehensive attendance area adjustment at the elementary, middle and high school levels, in preparation for the opening of as-yet-unnamed New Elementary School No. 42 in 2018–19, and to resolve issues of overcrowded schools in the eastern portions of the county and under-capacity schools in western Howard County. The boundary line adjustments would affect approximately 8,800 students, or 15% of the student body.
The Attendance Area Committee (AAC) will meet throughout the summer to review the redistricting needs and consider alternative options. In addition to the AAC meetings, the Office of School Planning will hold two regional sessions for the public on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m., at Wilde Lake High School, and Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 7:30 p.m., at Howard High School. The purpose of these meetings will be to review recommendations from the AAC and the 2017 Feasibility Study.
Martirano will present his recommendation to the board at its Tuesday, Oct. 3, meeting, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The board will hold public hearings on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m., and Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m., and work sessions on Wednesday, Nov. 1; Thursday, Nov. 2; Thursday, Nov. 9; and Tuesday, Nov. 14. All work sessions begin at 7:30 p.m.
The board is scheduled to take action on the attendance area revisions on Thursday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m. The new attendance areas will go into effect at the start of the 2018–19 school year.
Finally, new candidates announcing their intentions to run for vacant County Council seats this year include Republican Jim Walsh in District 5 and Democrat Steve Hunt in District 3, and County Executive Allan Kittleman (R) officially announced his candidacy for re-election at a rally outside Clyde’s restaurant on the Columbia Lakefront on June 12.