A Unilateral Plan
Columbia is characterized as being created from the very best community planning processes available. Our county’s planning process has been a thorough one, from Jim Rouse’s original, painstaking planning of this first community of its kind, to the five-year process we’ve just completed for the revitalization of Columbia’s downtown. Indeed, this most recent planning process was one of the most extensive planning processes in the history of Maryland. We are proud of our planning process, which is meant to ensure that nothing is rushed through, that every perspective is given equal consideration.
Some of the most vocal advocates of an extended planning process sit on the CA Board, including at least two members who collected signatures in an effort to take our downtown plan to a referendum by voters after it had been passed unanimously by the County Council with overwhelming public support. Time and time again, the folks on that side made unsubstantiated arguments that the process was being circumvented or hurried along and that the county was giving the developer special treatment.
Now, in a sudden rush to redevelop Symphony Woods – which the CA Board has neglected for decades – these members of the CA Board are expressing surprise that they, too, should held to the standards established in our community’s planning process – the same standards they so vigorously upheld when applied to someone else. The Board is asking to skip certain steps in the planning process, while pointing fingers at the county for “holding up” its rush plan.
Previously, the Board had opted out of the opportunity to participate with the community and the county during the planning of downtown, which included funding from the developer for special projects just like this. Instead, CA procured $250,000 in taxpayer money, and an equal amount in anonymous private funds, to draft its own plan with minimal, if any, community input. It is not clear yet how the remainder of the *$2 million plan will be funded, nor is it clear who exactly formed the consensus on the plan aside from, presumably, the eleven members of the board.
Why does the CA Board think it is exempt from the planning process?
*UPDATE: CA’s plan for Symphony Woods is budgeted at $4.5 million.