Help, direction and change were asked of Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman during his third town hall meeting Thursday evening in Clarksville as residents raised concerns of future development along Route 108.
With the possibility of a shopping center coming to the former Gateway School site, a 7.8-acre parcel off Route 108 owned by the county, Clarksville residents Kolandavel and Santhini Ramasamy said they made sure to attend their first town hall meeting to voice against the project.
"This is a primarily residential area," Kolandavel Ramasamy said, referring to the area behind Linden-Linthicum United Methodist Church where the meeting was held. "Putting a shopping complex there will definitely add more traffic. The shopping center is for the public, right? If the public says it's inconvenient, what good is it going to do?"
Santhini Ramasamy said she's worried about the increase in traffic along an already busy roadway near their home.
"Driving from Linden-Linthicum Lane onto Route 108 is not so safe, especially in the morning or evening," she said. "It's just so congested here and I'm not in favor of that."
While Fulton resident Blanford Robinson isn't "necessarily against the growth," he said it's crucial the county executive have a finite plan to steer the community in the right direction with the cooperation of the residents' timely investment.
"I think there are a lot of mistakes that can be made when you spend money too quickly or have too many goals rather than focusing on specific goals to try to accomplish," Robinson said. "Hopefully, we can preserve this area for more generations as opposed to having it not be a place you want to live anymore."
Robinson said the county must come up with "a different plan" to accommodate the growing traffic population, perhaps making the area a more walkable community.
"Our property values are high and the availabilities are low, and our density is low," he said. "And, most of our schools are overcrowded as it is."
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Although Kittleman told residents redistricting is an option they must keep in mind, Brent Loveless, community representative of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance Review Task Force, said that particular consideration should be of limited use.
"Redistricting is something that you want to keep to an absolute minimum," Loveless said. "It should be done to facilitate the children who are in the system. Redistricting for the sake of providing additional opportunities for growth is not fair to the children, people who invest time in PTA and the teacher-student relationships."
At the conclusion of the meeting, Kittleman said he was pleased to feel a connection with the community and establish a back-and-forth rapport.
"There are things that I didn't know," Kittleman said. ""I want them to know I work for them. I want them to know that I respect them and that I sincerely want to hear from them."