Residents of southern Howard County raised concerns about traffic, development and whether they might finally be getting a public pool at a forum Tuesday night with County Executive Allan Kittleman at the North Laurel Community Center.
The southern county – which includes the communities of North Laurel, Savage and Fulton – is one of the fastest-growing regions of Howard. As the pace of development there quickens, residents have worried that infrastructure won't keep up.
"I see the homes and townhomes come in, but I don't really see new infrastructure come in to accommodate them," Mike Downey, a North Laurel resident, told Kittleman at the forum, hosted by the Southern Howard County Civic Association. "I'd like to see them update the roads before they approve any more of these homes."
Kittleman has appointed a task force to study the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, the county law that is supposed to ensure roads and schools are able to accommodate growing populations. Tuesday, he said he wanted to see more commercial, rather than residential, development for the south county, which includes the busy Route 1 corridor.
Kittleman added that he opposes the county buying property for revitalization along the corridor, as was the case with the Hurst property, a former antique store near the corner of Route 1 and Whiskey Bottom Road purchased under the administration of former County Executive Ken Ulman. The Howard County Council recently approved a request from Kittleman to sell the property, with the condition that a board of local residents will first get to weigh in on the sale.
"I don't think the county should be in the business of buying property and then deciding what to do with it economically," Kittleman said. "The goal is to have private companies come and do the best they can."
Kittleman also touched on the debate over whether to move a MARC train stop from the city of Laurel, in Prince George's County, to Laurel Park Station, a development planned in Howard County near the Laurel Park racetrack. Laurel officials and residents have opposed their stop being shuttered. Maryland's Department of Transportation is currently weighing options for both stations.
The decision of whether or not to locate a stop at Laurel Park Station "will probably affect what goes on in that development, because had there been a stop there, there would be more opportunity for economic growth," Kittleman said, adding that he has "no dog in the hunt."
As for a swimming pool, Kittleman said he couldn't yet make any promises to build one. Southern Howard County Civic Association President Bibi Perrotte-Foston said she remembered passing out petitions to build a pool years ago. "I'm still waiting," she said.