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Time to dispel myths about Symphony Woods plans [Letter]

1:07 PM EDT, April 25, 2014

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In August 2012, the long awaited Symphony Woods Park was close to becoming a reality. However, on Feb. 14, 2013, the Columbia Association Board suspended its rules, ignored questioners, closed off debate, and with stunning speed, voted 8-2 to accept a scheme termed Inner Arbor (IA). Its supporters call it visionary, bold and exciting. Critics call it a costly misuse of a treasured public asset.

Among the myths posited for IA are:

Myth 1: The Howard County Planning Board rejected the original plan.

In fact, it was approved by the Howard County Planning Board on July 19, 2012, with two minor conditions. Those conditions were being addressed when the CA board first delayed and then abandoned the well-vetted plan, giving an untried Inner Arbor control over Symphony Woods.

Myth 2: Critics of Inner Arbor are simply "naysayers opposed to change and progress.

Not all change is progress. Those saying "nay" include esteemed architect Frank Gehry, the planners and architects who helped James Rousecreate Columbia, and numerous thoughtful residents troubled by IA's lack of transparency, excessive costs, outlandish features, and the secret meetings that gave birth to it.

Myth 3: Inner Arbor will provide a major boost to arts in Columbia.

Columbia has always been an incubator for arts groups, including Candlelight Concerts, HoCoPoLitSo, Rep Stage and many others . IA offers little, if anything, to these groups and their audiences. First rate, even world class programs, are enjoyed now in the excellent facilities ofHoward Community College and at art centers, churches, libraries, schools, the lakefront and other venues throughout Columbia and Howard County.

Myth 4: Inner Arbor's plans honor James Rouse's vision.

Those who worked most closely with Jim Rouse emphatically say otherwise. There would be a beautiful peaceful park taking shape in Symphony Woods right now, if not for the rash reversal of Feb. 14, 2013. This community deserves a convincing explanation for that loss, not myths and hyperbole.

Norma Rose

Columbia