Some Long Reach voters are so concerned about a proposed affordable housing development in the Kendall Ridge neighborhood that they're threatening to make it the key issue in the District 2 County Council race.
"It's a big bag of mixed feelings," said James R. Long, who has promises to vote against any candidate who supports the 64-townhouse Streamwood development proposed by the Enterprise Foundation.
But he and other residents may have a tough time making a choice at the polls next month.
Republican candidate Evelyn L. Turner supports building nearly three dozen units for moderate-income home buyers so strongly that she's touted the project as she canvasses door-to-door in the East Columbia district. Democrat C. Vernon Gray, a long-time proponent of efforts to increase the county's stock of affordable homes, is hedging his bets while trying to get more details about the project.
"I haven't seen the specifics," he said. "I have a meeting scheduled with the Enterprise Foundation to see exactly what they will do about it."
The Streamwood development is part of a plan to build 740 housing units on 147 acres owned by the Rouse Co. east of Snowden River Parkway and north of Route 175.
The project's developers, the Rouse Co. and the Enterprise Foundation, have proposed creating 36 townhouses for buyers with incomes from about $25,000 to $40,000.
The Howard County Housing Commission would own the remaining 28 townhouses, which would rent for about $450 per month to those with incomes ranging from about $18,000 to $25,000.
Project developers are redesigning the plan and working to secure financing. After criticism from neighbors, they eliminated "shared living" that would have divided some units into two apartments, each with a common area.
Since July, the project has generated intense debate among neighbors who say it would lead to a culturally and economically segregated enclave in the neighborhood, adversely affect property values and lead to an increase in crime.
"We're against affordable housing in one place," said Phelps Luck resident John J. Snyder, who said he and his neighbors will vote against project supporters.
But Cecilia Januszkiewicz, Long Reach village board chairwoman, said she believes Kendall Ridge residents are too worried about other issues, such as modernizing the Long Reach village center, to mobilize behind Streamwood.
"There's too many other issues," Ms. Januszkiewicz said. "I know my vote is not going to depend on their [candidates'] stance on Streamwood."
Despite any possibility of losing votes, Ms. Tanner is unswayed.
"Any vote that you lose is crucial," she said. "I would hate to lose votes because of Streamwood, but if that happens, it happens."
Ms. Tanner said she advocates Streamwood because it would (( be a source of housing for teachers, firefighters and others who otherwise can't afford to live in Columbia.
"I want our young people to be able to stay in the community," she said. "We need to go out and convince the neighborhood it's needed."
Allan Kittleman, chairman of the Howard County Republican Central Committee, said he thinks voters will appreciate Ms. Tanner's honesty.
"It shows Evelyn Tanner is not only consistent but forward and upright," Mr. Kittleman said. "She's willing to say 'This is what I believe.' Vernon is hedging his bets."
But Mr. Gray said his reluctance to support the project stems from concerns about certain aspects of the plan, such as BTC concentrating affordable housing units in one development.
"You just don't put all [low-and moderate-income] apartments in one complex," he said, adding that he also worries about the prevalence of affordable housing in Long Reach compared with other Columbia villages such as River Hill that has none. "I share people's concerns about seeming to locate a lot of low-income housing in Long Reach," Mr. Gray said.