Letter: Columbia Association's plan could squelch planned Symphony Woods park

The recent Baltimore Sun wrote about a new plan (aka McCall Plan) for Symphony Woods. The park plan is gone, replaced by an "Arts District" with a transplanted Toby's Dinner Theatre, multiple restaurants, a community center, new Columbia Association headquarters and more. CA had closed sessions purportedly to discuss partnerships with other entities, and instead produced a totally new plan.

A few years ago our state delegation procured a $250K grant for the planned park to assist what they thought was a shovel-ready project; no shovel has touched dirt yet.  It has long been thought that the Ulman administration, preferring the original General Growth plan for multi-story buildings in Symphony Woods, intentionally delayed this project. CA President Phil Nelson in his memo to the CA Board about the new plan for their upcoming Jan. 24 meeting, with no other mention of delays, states "The County has made explicitly clear that such delays would not be enforced on the future developments under the McCall Plan." You read between the lines.

The CA Board hosted many public sessions and property walk-throughs about the park with opportunities for public input. Many were concerned about the impact on the woods by a few paths and a fountain and the number of mature trees to be removed was reduced.  Now President Nelson has announced that the CA Board may approve the new plan as early as Feb. 14. Where are the public presentations and opportunity for input? And somehow this radically different plan is viewed as just needing to complete the second half of the newly mandated 16-step county development approval process started for the original plan's miniscule construction needs.

It is not incumbent on CA to provide its land for the downtown amenities promised by others in return for their re-zoning gain. Enclosed structures in the size and quantity planned should not be emplaced on Columbia's largest remaining forested area and last chance for a real downtown park.

Russ Swatek

Long Reach

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