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School board eyeing changes in Listening Post

When previous Howard County school boards began a public forum called Listening Post many years ago, the idea was that county residents would be able to speak up about their concerns, have his or her comments heard and ultimately be responded to.

Listening Post still exists, but not the way it was intended, and board members say now might be the time to change it.

"Listening Post has had its day," said Sandra H. French, school board chairman. "It might be time for a new time, a new day, a new format, just something different."

Listening Post works this way: At every regularly scheduled open board meeting - which usually is split into an afternoon and evening session - general business does not begin until the public has been given an opportunity to speak on any issue not on that meeting's agenda. A maximum of five people are allowed before each session; each speaker gets three minutes.

Kings Contrivance board postpones annexation vote

Hoping the Rouse Co. might make it a better offer, the Kings Contrivance Village Board postponed Wednesday night its vote on a plan to annex the so-called Key property.

The board decided to wait for the outcome of talks between Rouse executives and Rafia Siddiqui, the Columbia Association's vice president for administrative services.

Siddiqui has said she would meet with the executives this week to suggest ways to make the annexation proposal more attractive to the association.

The board did not set a date for a vote.

Howard Research and Development, a Rouse affiliate, has asked the Columbia Association to annex a development, planned for 665 acres in North Laurel. The property straddles Interstate 95 and is bounded by Route 216 and Gorman Road.

Group backs density planned for Fulton project

A statewide anti-sprawl advocacy group announced Wednesday its opposition to decreased density at Maple Lawn Farms, a 508-acre mixed-use development proposed for Fulton in southern Howard County.

Members of 1000 Friends of Maiyland, a nonprofit group based in Baltimore, said reducing the density of the development would cause more sprawl elsewhere. They voiced concern that state-wide development proposals are being downsized to placate angry residents in opposition to Smart Growth policies.

Council approves hiring part-time zoning counsel

The County Council unanimously approved this week the hiring of a part-time zoning counsel.

The lawyer will advise residents on zoning laws and regulations and appear before the county Zoning Board. Under the measure, the position will be filled when the new budget year begins in July 2001.

The vote came as two other developmcnt-related measures were introduced for votes next month- a draft General Plan and a resolution that would again close the northeast school district to development.

The General Plan, which charts the county's expected growth through 2020, calls for a 25 percent reduction in home construction - though up to 30,000 new units would be possible during the period.

Predictions are that growth will slow in Howard after another decade, when large, undeveloped parcels will no longer exist. The plan commits the county not to extend water and sewer service west of current lines, thus limiting growth in rural areas.

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