Disney's America it was not, but on a smaller scale, the plans by the Soccer Association of Columbia to build a huge soccer complex at Howard Community College had raised fears about traffic, lighting and noise among neighbors who would otherwise be prime constituents for the development.
In this case, however, the parties were able to settle their differences and may have come up with a local model for cooperation when it comes to winning a resistant community's support for a large-scale project. The soccer association's plans moved a step forward last week when the college Board of Trustees granted its approval.
Financing and leasing terms must be negotiated, but opposition from a nearby townhouse community appears to have abated. Attempts will be made to route traffic away from the school's heavily traveled Hickory Ridge Road entrance, while officials have agreed to install less obtrusive lighting and alter the site plan to direct noise away from the townhouses.
Not all development projects are so easily altered to accommodate neighbors' concerns. But the parties involved should be commended nonetheless. Many worthy developments get scuttled primarily because of the obstinacy of the parties involved.
Because project meltdown was avoided, thousands of Howard County youths who participate on the association's teams may one day be able to play their games on top-quality fields on a lighted complex within sight of fans in a 3,000-seat stadium. That is a major advance, one that further distinguishes Columbia as a mecca for soccer in the United States.
We hope this initial success will be the impetus to carry the project over future hurdles. College officials must negotiate a lease with the association, which will undoubtedly determine how the project will be paid for. The association's willingness to foot the bulk of the bill should weigh heavily in its favor. As noted by the college's president, Dwight Burrill, the benefits to HCC could come in increased enrollments as the result of enhanced athletic facilities.
In many ways, this project represents a win-win for Howard County. Most importantly, it represents a chance to enrich the lives of the county's children.