Community Conference Call on Downtown Columbia
Our own David Yungmann was a panelist on a Community Conference Call on Downtown Columbia yesterday. Below are the panelist bios and a quick recap of what the call was about:
David has lived in Howard County for over 35 years and in that time, he has seen Columbia grow from a New Town into a city on the brink. He is very active in the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia, founding Columbia 2.0, a grassroots organization aimed at getting younger County residents engaged in the debate. He has testified in support of ZRA 113, the zoning that would enable the redevelopment, the plan which is currently being held hostage by the Howard County Planning Board. David has over 20 years in the real estate business, heading up the Yungmann Realty Group.
Lin has witnessed much change during the 38 years she’s lived in Columbia. While raising her family, developing a very successful real estate career with Long & Foster Real Estate and ultimately becoming president and CEO of Lakeview Title Company, she closely has watched Columbia grow into the community that James Rouse envisioned. But community has always been Lin’s priority. Over the years, she has served as chair of The Columbia Foundation and the Howard County Board of Appeals and as a member of the Board of Directors of The Columbia Festival of the Arts, the Foreign Information and Referral Network and the Howard County Association of Realtors.
Currently, Lin chairs The Business Alliance’s Town Center Task Force and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce and the Howard County Public School Foundation, Bright Minds. She understands firsthand the needs of businesses in Columbia and envisions a day when a true downtown exists for the benefit of all of Columbia and Howard County.
Phil and his family have lived in Oakland Mills for 35 years, and they’ve seen their neighborhood grow from a muddy construction site to a mature village, with all the advantages and problems that growth entails. He has served three terms on the Oakland Mills Village Board and is part of a dynamic group of people who are guiding Oakland Mills’ revitalization.
Phil is a Vice President of Environmental Design for RTKL, a global full-service planning, architecture and creative services organization.
Mike has been an active member of the Howard County legal community for over 25 years. In his practice, he represents individuals and families in all phases of estate planning, wealth management, probate and trust administration, asset protection, business succession, charitable giving, medical decision-making, and guardianship or fiduciary litigation matters. A recognized leader in the complexities of estate planning and other issues of interest to the aging community, Mike served on the Howard County Commission on Aging for the past ten years, as Chair or Vice-Chair for most of that time.
Sharonlee is a member of the county’s Transportation Board, president of Transportation Advocates, and a volunteer on the county’s Commission on Aging. She wants to be able to walk to a corner, hop on a bus or shuttle and go anywhere in the town, from downtown to the new Gateway Overlook shopping center near Interstate 95.
She is retired from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority [Metrorail and Metrobus] where she managed Customer Support, which included certification of the disabled passengers for reduced fares and senior citizen ID programs, Lost & Found, and several other programs. She is credited with bringing bicycle racks to the Metrobuses, greatly expanding Metrorail access for bicycles, and totally revitalizing the bicycle locker program.
Key points of the call:
• Finally, after years of collaboration and coordination among citizens, General Growth, and the Department of Planning and Zoning, the County’s planning staff made its own two-month review of the Community Master Plan and validated almost every way the community envisioned its future. That go-ahead came in November of last year. NOVEMBER OF LAST YEAR.
• We are about to enter the NINTH month of public hearings, technical staff presentations, developer presentations and at least TEN work sessions.
• The Planning Board’s first deadline for submitting a recommendation to our ELECTED County Council was in May.
• A deadline EXTENSION was granted to July.
• Yet another extension was granted until August 20 – last week.
• But after THREE unmet deadlines and unprecedented delays, the Planning Board has ignored the August 20 deadline and we, the community, AND our plan remain hostages of an unelected and unaccountable Planning Board.
According to the County Code, the role the Planning Board is that it “shall make recommendations to the County Council and the Zoning Board on all matters relating to the planning and zoning of the county, the adoption and amendment of regulations regarding the planning and zoning of the county, and amendments to the zoning map or zoning regulations.”
THE COUNTY CODE further provides that “the Planning Board shall make its recommendations within a reasonable period of time, but in any event no more than 45 days after it hears the petition unless the Zoning Board or the County Council allow a longer period of time for the Planning Board to make its recommendations.”
• If one were to take pictures of downtown Columbia in 2005 and then again today, those pictures would show that Columbia’s downtown has come to a grinding halt. The same is true for the older village centers in Columbia. How much more time do we have before Columbia’s reputation changes from that of being the city on a hill that Jim Rouse spoke of, showing the world how a new community can grow and prosper, to just another suburb with a failing infrastructure?
• However, no community in America has worked harder toward a consensus plan that stresses environmental sustainability, connectivity, a broad array of housing choices and first-class amenities.
• Our UNELECTED and apparently unaccountable Planning Board has simply hijacked this plan.
• It is time for the Planning Board to ACT NOW and give the community back its plan by sending it to our ELECTED County Council immediately.
• We are poised to take our message directly to every citizen of Howard County if this unprecedented delay continues.
• Time is very short. Every day counts. Let the County Council do its job – the job that we elected it to do.
• And let’s move from “more time and delay” to “more vision and action” NOW.