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Kittleman administration delays introduction of downtown Columbia plans

Kittleman administration delays introduction of downtown Columbia plans
How to include affordable housing in downtown Columbia has been debated for more than a decade. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda)

The Kittleman administration delayed the introduction of development plans for downtown Columbia on Monday.

The Kittleman administration delayed the introduction of development plans for downtown Columbia on Monday.

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The proposals, which include a 40-year binding agreement for affordable housing with Columbia's master developer, Howard Hughes Corp., as well as a multi-million dollar tax increment financing deal with the developer, will likely be introduced next month.

The delay was necessary because the administration is still negotiating outstanding issues, according to Jahantab Siddiqui, the administration's deputy chief of staff. The administration declined to comment on what issues were being negotiated.

The delay pushed Councilwoman Jen Terrasa to also delay the introduction of a competing plan for affordable housing in downtown Columbia to next month. Terrasa hopes to introduce the plan when the administration's package is filed in order to allow both proposals to be compared side-by-side.

"My understanding is that one of the benefits of their legislation was consensus," said Terrasa. "I thought they'd come to that consensus before the planning board. That does not appear to be the case."

Siddiqui said the administration will make the downtown Columbia proposals public once they are finalized.

The administration's 40-year binding agreement with Howard Hughes includes nearly 1,000 affordable housing units based on the county's median income on top of the current maximum of 5,500 residential units and a tied reduction in parking.

The plan has been touted by proponents as a comprehensive affordable housing package that is the product of consensus-building between the downtown housing corporation, the developer, the county's housing corporation and the administration.

Terrasa's plan is nearly identical to the housing corporation's initial plan, which it abandoned in favor of the developer's recommendations last year. It creates 702 new housing units at deemed affordable to those who earn 40 to 80 percent of the county's median income, which currently is $110,133.

The county's planning board, an advisory body, recommended the administration's plan in May.

In a prepared statement, Howard Hughes vice president of development, Greg Fitchitt, wrote the company looks forward to pre-filing "as soon as final details are completed."

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