An attempt to redevelop a Columbia village center galvanized the attention of at least 250 people who sat for four hours July 24, listening to attorneys request that Howard County’s Zoning Board approve a motion that would allow for the project to move forward.
Kimco Realty, a New York-based company that owns six of the nine Columbia town centers, is proposing a $70 million redevelopment at Hickory Ridge Village Center. The project would bring three new multi-tenant retail buildings and a freestanding bank with a drive-through.
The proposal has drawn contention from some nearby residents who largely oppose the placement of 230 apartments which would sit above retail stores and wrap around structured parking. Residents cite the potential impacts on the surrounding community, including traffic concerns and school overcrowding. The village board earlier this year drafted a position generally in favor of the plan.
At the top of the hearing, attorney Sang Oh, who represented Kimco Realty and HRVC Limited Partnership’s venture, asked Zoning Board member and Councilwoman Deb Jung if she could be impartial presiding over the case. Before being elected to the County Council last year, Jung, who lives in Columbia, testified in opposition to the plan at a public meeting. Jung told Oh she could be impartial.
Much of the technical hearing centered around the Department of Planning and Zoning’s 71-page report where they concluded the county should approve an addendum that would allow developers move forward with the plan.
Alan Schwartz, a Hickory Ridge resident and attorney, volunteered to represent community members in opposition to Kimco and the board’s stance on the issue. At the hearing, planning and zoning official Geoff Goins gave a condensed summary of the department’s findings.
The quasi-judicial hearing saw at least four outbursts from the opposition who made themselves recognizable with round yellow stickers with the text “Vote NO.”
At least 114 people signed up in opposition of the plan and 20 signed up in favor. No testimony was heard.
The Zoning Board will host additional hearings at the George Howard Building, where testimony can be given, at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 4 and 25.
This article was updated to correct the spelling of Geoff Goins, an official who works in Howard County's Department of Planning and Zoning.