The Inner Arbor Trust's plan for an arts park in Columbia's Symphony Woods has received a 19-page markup requesting a series of edits from Howard County's Department of Planning and Zoning, a step officials from both sides say is standard procedure for a project of this size and complexity.
"This is kind of typical of a project of this nature," said Kim Flowers, a spokeswoman for the county government. "The first cut is where we try to do our due diligence. We are exhaustive, and we want to be thorough in our communication of anything that could be an issue."
The plan, which has stirred controversy within the community, proposes building an interactive arts park on the downtown Columbia site. The markups correspond to plans for the first phase of construction, which proposes building a network of pathways and attractions on 16 acres north of Merriweather Post Pavilion.
The plan proposes five notable attractions: the Chrysalis, an outdoor shell-like amphitheater built into a hill; the Butterfly, a mirrored, glass guest services building located to the east of the pavilion; the Merriground, a 9,000-square-foot children's playground inspired by circles; the Caterpillar, a large, tube-like fence structure dividing the pavilion and the park; and the Picnic Table, a 300-foot-long elevated, turf-covered seating amenity.
Mark Thompson, the county's director of Downtown Redevelopment, echoed Flowers and said the 19-page response from the county is "pretty standard" for the 16-step downtown Columbia approval process, which he described as "iterative."
"A lot of these issues are typical housekeeping issues," Thompson said. "All issues can be addressed and resolved, we just need more clarity in the plans."
Michael McCall, president and CEO of the Inner Arbor Trust, agreed.
"Most of the comments are 'label this' or 'dimension that' – that's probably 85 percent of a long list," McCall said. "This is the process."
Thompson said some of the more significant issues include making sure the project is compliant with the American Disabilities Act, presenting a phasing plan and details about how the project fits with a section of a multi-use pathway that runs along the property line. The pathway is currently being constructed by Howard Hughes Corp. and will connect Blandair Park in East Columbia and Howard County General Hospital in West Columbia,
In addition, the county also noted that parking, as it currently stands, may be an issue for the development.
McCall and the Trust have until Aug. 8 to submit revised plans to the county. If approved, the project will then go to the Howard County Planning Board for review and public hearing. If approved by the Planning Board, the developer will then apply for building permits to begin construction.
McCall said he expects to be in front of the Planning Board in September.
Amanda Yeager contributed to this report.