Developer Pfau ignores historic district rulesDeveloper Michael...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Developer Pfau ignores historic district rules

Developer Michael Pfau does not get it.

Rather than putting the blame on the residents of Ellicott City, he should look to himself as the reason why he has not been able to get some of his plans past the Historic District Commission, a government-appointed body, which derives its powers from the Howard County Code.

Mr. Pfau has disregarded the commission's guidelines, which say that new construction should not seriously impair the historic or architectural value of surrounding structures. And that new work shall be compatible in size, scale, proportion and massing. And that compatibility with neighboring buildings in terms of form, proportion, scale and siting is the highest priority.

His proposed four buildings tower over the 1830s granite home, and the proposed 69 parking spaces all but obliterate the gentle sloping lawn that graces the property. If his project were built, any semblance of history would be lost forever.

That is why the commission has twice rejected plans that were in conflict with its mandate to protect the historic integrity of Ellicott City and this property. They have the power to do so, and thank heaven for that, or the Ellicott City that everyone loves would have vanished long ago.

Mr. Pfau claims to adore Ellicott City, but chastises others who love Ellicott City and work hard for no financial profit to assure its continued historic status.

For years, the residents of the historic district have come home from their jobs and put in another 40 hours a week researching, testifying and attending numerous hearings, not to mention restoring their own homes.

Others have volunteered with the historic organizations in the village, lobbying to assure that such national treasures as the railroad station and the Patapsco Female Institute were preserved. Mr. Pfau is not the only one who works 80-plus hours a week.

It is ironic that Mr. Pfau's wife wants to move to Church Road, the "hilly, wooded neighborhood that sits near the picturesque ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute. ... It's beautiful." ("Developer keeps fighting in Ellicott City, July 10).

It is beautiful and historic because the community association worked for nine long years to successfully defeat another developer who wanted to dot the hillsides with too many homes and connect Church Road to Route 40.

To paraphrase Mr. Pfau's words, most residents would have quit by now, but we are not quitters. That's why we are successful in protecting Ellicott City.

Sally S. Bright

Ellicott City

Elections supervisor has questionable record

The Howard County Board of Elections made a poor choice last week when it hired Robert Antonetti to be the new administrator of our elections board office.

Mr. Antonetti has a long record of mismanagement, ballot errors and troubled elections in his previous post as supervisor in Prince George's County. He was almost universally disliked by both the Republicans and the Democrats for his arrogance and lack of responsiveness.

Three years ago, he was reprimanded by the State Ethics Commission for his misconduct. And now our own Howard County Board of Elections has hired him -- at a salary that is almost twice that of his predecessor here.

Any rational voter in this county has to ask: What was the board thinking?

The board had numerous qualified candidates from Howard County who wanted the job. The board received 18 applications.

The other four finalist candidates were both Republicans and Democrats. All were very competent, and all had experience working in or with our local elections office.

The deal to hire Mr. Antonetti was apparently done without the knowledge of the full elections board and then rushed through for approval by the new chairman, Roland Howard, without the panel fully discussing and debating the choice.

This is a very troubling, new approach by the new chairman of the panel, which has traditionally been much more fair minded.

Over the past decade, Howard County has always had the reputation of running fair, competent elections. The board has kept excellent records and been very responsive to candidates and voters of all parties. We hope this is not about to change.

Mr. Antonetti's record of mismanagement and arrogance will be tested quickly here as the fall election approaches.

As opposed to Prince George's County, Howard County has a true two-party system, where a competent candidate from either party has fair chance of winning. We can only hope that he can change his reputation and bring a bipartisan approach to his new job.

Louis M. Pope

Ellicott City

The writer is chairman of the Howard County Republican Party.

Jail for lawbreakers, not just company fines

On the front page of the July 22 edition was an article "Caviar scheme nets record fine of $10.4 million." The article reported that a company was fined and that three company officials will get jail sentences.

That's the way it ought to be: If fining the company a lot of money is justified, then somebody in the company should do some pretty serious jail time.

But how often is it that a company gets fined hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars -- often stockholder dollars -- for breaking some law and nobody in the company goes to jail for committing the crime?

Bill Scanlon

Ellicott City

Hickey's farewell bonus paid for by bus drivers

In a July 23 Howard Viewpoints letter, Leslie J. Greenberg raised some very valid points that need answers from the school board.

I would like to know the legality of schools Superintendent Michael Hickey's bonus. Is there an attorney who would care to step forward? I would think that the state's attorney would also have an interest.

Not being an attorney myself, I cannot voice an authoritative opinion. I can, however, voice a taxpayer's opinion that this whole affair stinks of the good old boy system and Howard County deserves better.

I have not forgotten Mr. Hickey's holding up the county with demands for an unheard of high salary.

Where did the "left over" $16,000 come from?

Last year, county school bus drivers were supposed to get a 1-percent salary increase. This was taken away before they even got it because there supposedly wasn't enough money in the budget. Yet Mr. Hickey and his transportation administrators got their raises of 6 percent-plus.

Mr. Hickey's response is exactly what I expected: He is going to keep the money.

I suggest that it would be a good idea for voters to keep a close watch over the school board for another reason. By hiring a consultant, they can have a study done and, based on that study, have their salaries raised. Studies are always slanted to favor those who commission them.

It is time for the voters to rise up, be heard and hold the school board accountable for their actions.

Roger W. Hawkesworth Jr.

Woodbine

Celebration of ugly in new county library

If the powers that be in Howard County had made a conscious effort to create a symbol expressing their contempt for the people living west of Route 97, they have certainly succeeded. The newly emerged library is a tour de force in celebration of the ugly and inappropriate.

Why, in the only spot where one comes upon a pitiful remnant of rich farmland and traces of an old tradition of country living, would they concoct hideously putrid colors, cubist angles and geometric wires surrounded by a flattened landscape?

I hope the patrons of this treasure house of culture and refinement recover the use of their lacerated eyes once they get inside.

Sidney Ann Willson

Woodbine

Ethics is about right, wrong, not evasion

The "simple message" that Terry A. Dalton ("The honor code for the Internet," July 16) tells professors and administrators to drive home to their students, namely "don't cheat; the price is too high," is indeed simple, but it's simply wrong.

If the main reason for not cheating in school, or anywhere else, is that you may get caught and have to suffer severe consequences, then what will be learned is not to be more ethical, but simply to be more careful.

Ethical behavior can never arise from the probability of getting caught and punished. It must instead arise from what Socrates called "that little voice humming in my ear" that says "this is wrong."

The truly and reliably moral person behaves ethically even when, especially when, no one is looking and there is no possibility of getting caught. That is what we should be teaching our young people.

Rich Walter

Columbia

Does technology decide school learning levels?

Recently I ran across an example of excesses in evaluating states in their efforts to raise the level of learning.

In The Sun July 12, Mike Bowler discovered the Tech Sophistication Index. Data from this survey suggest that the "digital divide" is important in the learning process. Connecticut is one of the states with the 10 lowest scores in the country -- a negative.

But in the July 18 edition of the Washington Post, Jay Mathews wrote a half-page article on education in Connecticut.

He noted that Connecticut "has quietly become a model for educational experts and policymakers across the country." Tough standards for both teachers and students and a rigorous testing program "illustrate the basics of school improvement that few understand."

These conclusions are broadcast to readers as fact and are used to push an agenda.

Mr. Mathews has written several articles on rating Maryland high schools. Instead we are fed The Sun's idea that technology determines the level of learning.

It's a shame readers cannot get a more balanced picture of education in the state.

R.D. Bush

Columbia

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