Yes to Downtown
Last Thursday, I testified in favor of the joint recommendations on affordable housing and the tax increment financing legislation for Downtown Columbia. Below is my testimony. Feel free to comment.
Good evening, Council Chair Ball and members of the Howard County Council.
My name is Brian Dunn and I live at….in Kings Contrivance. Aside from college and a few years in Boston trying to convince my girlfriend (now wife) to move back to my hometown of Columbia, I have lived here my whole life. My parents were in that second wave of pioneers that came here looking to live the Rouse vision, and we certainly did. My experiences growing up here have shaped the person I am today.
I am here tonight to speak in favor of the Joint Recommendations on Affordable Housing and the Tax Increment Financing legislation.
I have listened to a lot of testimony and read newspaper stories, blogs and facebook posts about these two issues. I have spent over a decade engaged in advocacy for the revitalization of Downtown Columbia. The highpoint was the unanimous passage in 2010 of the General Plan Amendment that established the Downtown Columbia Plan.
That plan addresses just 380 acres in the center of Columbia and will include residences, office buildings, stores and restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, cultural and civic institutions, as well as parks and other natural amenities. It will be transformative, and I can hardly wait.
As we look at the housing and TIF proposals, I ask myself a simple question: Will they advance the fulfillment of the revitalization of Downtown Columbia?
We can see that development is underway, that The Metropolitan is completed, and One Merriweather is making great progress, that other buildings have been started, but only somewhere between 5 and 10% of the plan has been completed.
To accelerate the revitalization, new and improved roads and public parking are critical. (Public parking for Merriweather Post Pavilion is long overdue.) Tax Increment Financing is a community used public financing tool, and we should use it now because the development it will support will generate enough new revenues to not only pay the debt but also fund other civic amenities in Columbia and elsewhere in Howard County.
As for the Joint Recommendation on Affordable Housing, it is obvious that the best solution is the solution that will work, that has the backing of the people needed to make it happen. The Joint Recommendations on Affordable Housing are the product of the county, the Housing Commission, the Columbia Downtown Housing Corporation and The Howard Hughes Corporation. All the players have agreed the recommendations will work and endorse them as a practical, efficient, effective way to provide more housing units at a quicker pace than would be provided if we depended upon the ups and downs of future residential development.
I thank you for all you do to advance the Downtown Columbia Plan and urge you to approve the Joint Recommendations on Affordable Housing and the Tax Increment Financing proposal.