The Howard County Planning Board moved plans for a new Circuit Courthouse a step closer to reality in August, unanimously approving zoning amendments for the proposed site at 9250 Bendix Road in the Oakland Ridge Industrial Park.
The amendments identify the courthouse and its related uses as permitted uses in Employment Center-Industrial zoning.
In a presentation before the board, Department of Planning and Zoning Plan Review spokesman Derrick Jones said the 69-acre lot in question currently contains the existing 190,500-square-foot Dorsey Building and a parking lot.
“The courthouse could be designed and built as two separate structures; we’re leaving that to the concessionaire to decide,” said the county’s Department of Public Works Chief of Bureau Facilities Daryl Paunil.
In seeking the amendment, the county, which is in the process of pursuing a public-private partnership to deliver the courthouse, wants to ensure that ancillary uses tied to the courthouse (such as states attorney and public defender offices) would also be permitted within the new zoning. About 60,000 to 80,000 square feet of space is being leased to house displaced government offices in order to make the Dorsey site available, Paunil said.
“Another option we’d like to have [for this property] is to come back at a later date and possibly build [another] office building for county use to move those groups out of leased space and save the county money,” he said.
On Aug. 22, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced the removal of a Confederate memorial located outside the courthouse in Ellicott City following completion of the historic review process. The memorial will be donated to the Howard County Historical Society Museum.
“It has become increasingly clear in recent months that memorials such as this are hurtful to many residents in our community and elsewhere,” Kittleman said. “Given these feelings and the tragedy in Charlottesville, I felt compelled to remove this memorial from public property.”
The Historical Society Museum plans to include the memorial in its “Fractured County” Civil War exhibit.
County Council Chair Jon Weinstein (D-Dist. 1) said removing the memorial ensures that public spaces are open and comfortable to all citizens and visitors.
“We can’t forget that this symbol and symbols like this represent hate and cause many people pain,” Weinstein said. “The monument is not representative of who we are as a community today and does not belong on grounds of a building that represents justice.”
According to Maryland Historical Trust records, the memorial was dedicated on Sept. 23, 1948. A former Howard County Circuit Judge, William Henry Forsythe, Jr., appears to have been responsible for accepting and placing the memorial on the courthouse grounds.
As of Aug. 30, a total of 14 candidates have declared their intentions to run for Howard County Council, where four of the five council seats will be vacant next year due to term limitations.
In District 1, incumbent Jon Weinstein is running for reelection, joined by Republican Raj Kathuria, of Ellicott City.
Republican John Liao, of Ellicott City, and Democrat Opel Jones, of Columbia, are vying for the District 2 seat currently held by Democrat Calvin Ball.
Contenders for Democrat Jen Terrasa’s District 3 seat include Republicans Christiana Rigby, of Columbia; Steve Hunt and Hiroy Hadgu, of Savage; along with Democrat Gregory Jennings, of North Laurel.
In District 4, Republican Lisa Kim, of North Laurel, and Democrats Byron MacFarlane and Deb Jung, both of Columbia, are seeking to replace outgoing Democrat Mary Kay Sigaty.
And in District 5, announced contenders for Republican Greg Fox’s seat include Democrat China Christine Williams, of Ellicott City, along with Republicans Jim Walsh of Columbia and David Yungmann of Woodbine. Keith Ohlinger of Woodbine withdrew from the District 5 Republican primary race.
In the county executive’s race, incumbent Republican Allan Kittleman has announced his reelection bid, and Republican Darren Vilus, of Columbia, has also filed as a candidate.
Former School Board and County Council Member Courtney Watson (D), meanwhile, announced her intention to enter the race for State Delegate in District 9B.
Back to School
On Aug. 31, Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano announced the expansion of the Let’s Rethink Lunch Healthy Meals Program to all elementary schools.
Piloted in April 2016 in three elementary schools — Bollman Bridge, Laurel Woods and Talbott Springs — the program is part of a partnership with the Horizon Foundation to promote the link between nutrition, education, physical activity and a healthy lifestyle. The program gives students access to a wider range of high quality, healthy options for school meals and expands to all elementary schools at the start of the 2017–18 school year.
Martirano, meanwhile, confirmed his interest in being considered a candidate in the Howard County Board of Education’s search for a full-time superintendent.
“I’ve been hired as the interim and acting superintendent, and I have a job to do for this Board of Education,” Martirano said. “I’m trying to stay out of all those conversations, so it’s not uncomfortable and without making it a distraction, but I have signaled that I’m interested. But first, I have a job to do for kids in Howard County.”