Don't Stifle Kid Sports
With the World Cup fervor dying down now, perhaps it's safe to write this. A few weeks ago who in Columbia would have been able to question a Sun article (June 19, "Drawing the Line at a Soccer Protest") that pitted the future for kids soccer in Columbia against what was perceived by some as another local village guarding its turf? I guess I was prompted by another article that was published July 9, "Foes inundate proposal for 50-meter swimming pool."
Here, as in the case of the Columbia Soccer Association's bid to build a soccer complex for kids at Howard Community College, was another development proposal for the good of Columbia's kids. . . . The pool venture reported was basically defeated in less than three weeks. . . .
It's the children we should be concerned about. I've got two boys. Yes, Zack's in the soccer recreational league and Nathan's on one of the traveling teams. They both do skill drills every day they don't have practice and both are great (a dad's bias). Dad has been an assistant coach at the rec level for about five years. . . .
The solution to the soccer complex at HCC is simple. After normal school hours, on weekends or whenever "soccer" hours take place, HCC simply locks the gates that lead to Hickory Ridge Road. Everyone comes and leaves via Little Patuxent. It won't solve all our traffic problems, but it will solve this one . . .
Housing for Our Children
Columbia's Long Reach Village board of directors held a community meeting recently on a proposed development of affordable housing in its community. The development, to be built by the Enterprise Social Investment Corporation, is targeted to homeowners earning between $25,000 and $40,000 in yearly income, and to renters earning between $18,000 and $25,000.
To say that the community's reaction was negative is an understatement. . . . The Enterprise Social Investment Corporation has proposed to build 64 townhouse units. Thirty-six of those units will be sold to households earning between $25,000 and $40,000 annually; 28 of the units will be rented to families earning between $18,000 and $25,000 annually. The townhouses . . . will look essentially the same as many of the other townhouse developments in the neighborhood.
The protesters to this plan (virtually everyone who spoke) made four points:
* The development would bring down property values.
* Long Reach has more than its fair share of "subsidized" housing developments and other Columbia villages have none.
* The development creates too great a concentration of low-income units and people.
* Crime and drug abuse would increase.
. . . Any homeowner concerned about his or her property and neighborhood should be asking questions about just such matters. But in this case, there are answers which should allay people's fears.
Who are the people who would move into these homes? People who earn between $25,000 and $40,000 are Columbia's school teachers and firefighters and policemen, managers in Columbia businesses, nurses at Howard County General Hospital, accountants, bank managers and office professionals. Renters who earn between $18,000 and $25,000 are professionals just starting out in area businesses, administrative assistants, secretaries and health care workers. In short, they are your children, or your brothers and sisters, or you 10 years ago.
. . The fact is that you cannot completely eliminate crime or drug abuse from society, but there is no reason to believe that this population would engage in criminal activities any more than you would. . . .
The Enterprise Social Investment Corporation is an experienced developer of housing throughout this area. Its homes are well-built and it has made it a priority to develop strong resident associations. Along with a good management company, a strong resident association is the best insurance against problem properties. You can be sure that these people want to protect their homes and their property values as much as you want to protect yours.
Is "subsidized" housing concentrated in Long Reach? In fact, seven of Columbia's villages have what are traditionally thought of as subsidized units, and at least one village has more ksubsidized units than Long Reach. Should villages which currently have no subsidized housing have some? Absolutely. But development takes a long time and requires that available land, financing and an interested developer come together at the same time.
This is the opportunity that we have in Long Reach. . . .
Finally, all the homes in this proposed development will be targeted for people earning $40,000 and less. This is the nature of development. You can't just scatter these units around the community because costs would be much higher; small parcels would be very difficult to assemble; financing would not be available for this type of development, and the development process would be enormously complicated. . . . .
Scattering affordable housing is an excellent idea. In fact, a proposal to require that moderately priced dwelling units be included in every development over 50 units was brought before the Howard County Council last year. . . . Unfortunately, this proposal was defeated, by people voicing the same concerns as were expressed in Long Reach. If we continue to argue against every proposal for affordable housing that comes along, half the people who work in Columbia will not be able to live here. . . .
We need to work together to protect our property values, to protect our investments and to make Columbia a better place to live for our children and our neighbors' children.
The writer is vice president of the Howard County Housing Alliance.