A group of southern Howard County residents have formed a new community association and hope to hold their first meeting in early April.
The Southern Howard County Civic Association encompasses a broad swath of neighborhoods in Howard's southern region. According to founder and president Bibi Perrotte-Foston, the group's boundaries stretch south to the Montgomery and Prince George's County lines, north to Route 32, east to the Anne Arundel County line and west to Ten Oaks Road.
Perrotte-Foston said her goal for the association was to create an inclusive forum for south county residents to get involved in decisions involving their neighborhoods.
"Civic associations are so important," she said. "You don't have to wait for something to happen to get organized."
The fledgling group already has a board, including a vice president, treasurer and secretary in addition to Perrotte-Foston, and is registered with the state of Maryland. They are planning to hold their first meeting on April 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the North Laurel Community Center on Whiskey Bottom Road. Subsequent meetings would take place on a monthly basis, every first Tuesday of the month.
The new association joins the ranks of several other community groups in the county. The Howard County Citizens Association, one of the oldest, was founded in 1961 and brings together citizens from across the county to focus on "exemplary government," "sound fiscal policies," "orderly growth and development," "educational system excellence" and "preservation of agricultural, historical and open space."
Other groups focus on advocating for specific communities, including Clarksville, Savage and High Ridge. The Southern Howard County Civic Association hopes to attract members from the latter two regions, as well.
Perrotte-Foston used to be president of the now-defunct North Laurel Civic Association. She said she struggled to get her neighbors in the High Ridge area to join that group, because of the specificity of the name.
With this new association, Perrotte-Foston hopes to attract more people. Meetings are open to anyone who wants to stop by, whether or not they live in the community.
"It's more inclusive and it's a broader range," she said. Her vision is to unite residents from throughout the southern county to work together when voicing their opinions about new projects and policies impacting the region, "so that when development happens, it will involve the whole area."
"The hodgepodge and the piecemeal doesn't look good," she said. Instead, "we can work together and plan together."
South county residents have often expressed concerns that their communities are overlooked in favor of bringing new amenities to Columbia, Ellicott City and the west.
But the region has some major projects in the pipeline, including plans to revitalize the segment of Route 1 in Howard County.
That's one issue that Perrotte-Foston foresees the group addressing in its future meetings. She'd like to see planned bicycle and pedestrian lanes along the corridor run from the Baltimore County line to Prince George's County.
Other potential issues for the group include advocating against the demolition of a 115-year-old house in North Laurel at the intersection of Old Scaggsville and All Saints roads and requesting a sound barrier for residents who live close to Interstate 95 where it crosses Stansfield Road.
Perrotte-Foston and the rest of the board want the group to be an open forum for any issues affecting the community. The group will not have any sort of political bent, she said.
"Right now, we're looking for people," she said. "I have a motto: If you don't take care of the community you live in, someone else will – and you won't be happy with the result."