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Howard County Council to vote on historic downtown Columbia development deal

The council will vote on the downtown Columbia package at 7 p.m.
The council will vote on the downtown Columbia package at 7 p.m. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun)

After four months of deliberation, the Howard County Council is poised to vote on a historic deal that will guide the development of downtown Columbia over the next 40 years.

The legislative package, which includes nearly 50 amendments, includes two competing plans to incorporate affordable housing as the county attempts to implement a development vision laid out in a guiding plan for downtown Columbia.

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The first affordable housing plan uses a 40-year binding agreement between Howard Hughes, the master developer, and the county to build up to 900 affordable units in downtown Columbia. The developer would be responsible for building 400 units and the remaining balance would be achieved through low income housing tax credit projects and other means. The administration has hailed the plan as a consensus-driven and guaranteed way to build affordable housing in downtown. The developer would primarily be responsible for building 400 affordable units.

A competing plan proposed by Councilwoman Jen Terrasa requires roughly 15 percent of all units to be affordable.

The council is also considering a $90 million public financing deal called Tax Increment Financing that earmarks future tax revenues from the downtown development to payback county bonds and other costs associated with the new development.

The deal would fund a $51 million parking garage, shared by commercial tenants and Merriweather Post Pavilion, and other public improvements.

Council members have proposed various amendments that place conditions on the TIF. Merriweather Post Pavilion, for example, must be transferred from Howard Hughes to a new nonprofit, by Nov. 30.

Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, a strong opponent of the TIF and the administration's plan for affordable housing, has proposed more than half of the amendments now before the council.

The council will vote on the package at 7 p.m. tonight.



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