Sunday, November 8, 2015

Notes: Howard County Executive Alan Kittleman Talks About Redevelopment

Howard County Executive Alan Kittleman was the featured guest at the November 3, 2015 meeting of the Southern Howard County Civic Association (SHCCA) meeting in the North Laurel Community Center (NLCC).

The meeting was an open forum for the approximately 50 members of the community in attendance to ask questions of Mr. Kittleman and express their concerns.

The main topics centered around redevelopment in the southeast corner of the County, the current review of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) developer fees, and how new budget constraints will affect Howard County's ability to address the lack of a long-promised swimming pool at NLCC.

  • Tuesday, December 1, 2015 @ 6:30 PM: SHCCA Meeting, Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) Director Valdis Lazdins 
  • TBD in 2016: Town Hall with Howard County Executive Alan Kittleman in North Laurel/Savage

Redevelopment in Savage/North Laurel

Mr. Kittleman expressed concern that too much commercial zoning had been changed to residential zoning along the Route 1 corridor, which he feels should be one of the economic engines of the County.

He cautioned it is the Howard County Council that controls zoning and not the Executive, and that furthermore there are a number of residential projects already in the pipeline, but stated he would like to see more commercial office and manufacturing development along Route 1.

Another complication is that Route 1 requires coordination with Anne Arundel and Prince George's Counties, as well as the Maryland State Highway Department and Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Mr. Kittleman was also asked about specific issues:

  • Properties at the corner of Whiskey Bottom Road and Route 1: 
    • He believes private parties are interested in assembling properties at this corner for development and he wants to get started on a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Howard County-owned Hurst property. 
      • Howard County is also working with the State, and Mr. Kittleman pointed out that Dennis Schrader, Deputy of MDOT, is a former Howard County Councilman who lives in the area and understands the concerns.
    • He was in favor of selling the Hurst Antiques property, as approved by the Council in October, because he felt the the County should only buy properties for public purposes such as schools, and not to dictate private uses. If a property is zoned properly he can't tell property owners not to do something that is allowed by zoning.
      • Councilmember Jen Terasa added a codicil requiring that the sale must consider input from the local community.
    • The adjacent former Beechcrest Trailer Park property is not owned by the County, but by the Housing Commission. It is his understanding that they don't have any specific plans for the property and he believes they would be receptive to proposals.
  • Laurel Park:
    • The location of the MARC station is a huge issue that is outside of Howard County's control. The State of Maryland is working on this and CSX is another stakeholder, as they own the rail line which they use for freight, but allow it to be used for public transportation.
    • Mr. Kittleman said he "doesn't have a dog in this hunt" though he doesn't think having the MARC station would be a bad thing for Howard County, and an advantage of moving it here would be that it would allow for the construction of a parking garage.
    • He hasn't discussed this with Laurel Mayor Moe because Mr. Moe has recused himself from the issue (he works for MDOT), but has talked to Senator Rosapeppe.
    • A lot of options are being considered, including having a stop in both places and running a shuttle between them.
  • Sustainable Communities Grant:
    • A member of the audience stated that 2.5 years ago, this part of Howard County was designated a "sustainable community," giving it a 5 year window to apply for millions of dollars in state grants. She said that North Laurel and Savage are the only communities that have never put in an application and now the department head has left.
    • Mr. Kittleman suggested this be brought up with the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) at next month's meeting, and he would make a note to talk to the DPZ chief to make sure we don't miss out on this opportunity.
    • Mr. Kittleman emphasized that his goal for DPZ was to make sure the agency is open and responsive, which is one reason the new director will be at the SHCCA meeting in December.
  • Community Engagement
    • An audience member stated that 16 years ago, there was a local Laurel group called LEAD that sponsored forums to engage the government and community in conversations
    • It was useful in getting community input including a community plan presented by Savage and was part of the impetus for the North Laurel Community Center, but Howard County stopped participating
  • Access to I-95
    • Residents of some communities expressed concern with speeding commuters cutting through their communities and asked for police enforcement, but the real issue is that there is no good way to go from Route 1 to I-95

Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO)

The Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) covers fees assessed on developers to ensure that there is sufficient new infrastructure such as roads and schools when new development is built in Howard County.

It has essentially not been revised since it was established 20 years ago and Mr. Kittleman said he has chartered a task force that has been working for several months to recommend changes. In response to a question, he stated he does feel excise taxes to develop infrastructure are appropriate to address congestion.

A resident expressed concerns that the APFO process is moving too fast and the committee is not adequately addressing citizen concerns, though she did not elaborate on her specific concerns.

Mr. Kittleman called upon a task force member, Brent Loveless, to provide his perspective and Mr. Loveless did agree that things are moving very fast on some issues.

Mr. Loveless also stated that he doesn't expect that APFO will be able to cover everything and he has particular concerns about the lack of adequate resources for schools. He encouraged residents to attend the meeting on the next day which would discuss traffic.

He also asked for consideration of the preservation of historic structures (such as Emerson's Stephens Manor). Mr. Kittleman said there is no quick answer, as owners also have property rights.

NLCC Swimming Pool

By far the biggest reaction from the audience was on the issue of a long-promised swimming pool at NLCC. 

SHCCA President Bibi Perrotte-Foston talked about how this was always in the original plan for NLCC (which opened in 2011).

An audience member expressed frustration about how the issue seemed to be caught in an endless cycle of feasibility studies despite the land having already been purchased, when the studies have shown that an indoor swimming pool could make money for the County.

Mr. Kittleman said the message had been received "loud and clear" but he needs to resolve a decrease in the County's capital budget of $30M. Previously the County had issued $120M in bonds annually, but he has received a recommendation that this level should only be $90M.

Later, when asked about the rain tax, Mr. Kittleman responded that his goal was to also get rid of this tax, but the Maryland Legislature had made it a requirement that counties have a dedicated source of funding for remediating stormwater discharge.

His goal is to fund this entirely within the existing Howard County budget, creating further fiscal pressures. 

Miscellaneous Topics
  • Mr. Kittleman committed to four Howard County Town Meetings as he had held in 2015, and said they would make sure that one of them was held in North Laurel/Savage.
  • A resident of Savage asked for Mr. Kittleman's help in getting Howard County Police to engage with their efforts to establish a Community Watch program, and to address other issues.
    • Mr. Kittleman offered to set up a meeting with himself and the police to listen to the community's concerns.
  • An attendee who works for the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) bus system said that they are only receiving used buses which are frequently sitting in an unused broken condition. 
    • A Howard County official responded that this is complicated, because the buses come from Maryland Transportation Authority (MTA) and Howard County needs their approval to dispose of them. 
    • Also, RTA is multi-jurisdictional and Howard County cannot make unilateral decisions. They are working with MTA, Prince George's County, etc. to resolve issues and come up with a fleet maintenance plan.
  • The President of the Howard County Board of Elections pointed out that her staff was at NLCC that evening with new paper ballot voting machines
    • Her staff has some concerns about accessibility and would appreciate input.

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