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YMCA board in favor of proposed Lowe's in Ellicott City

After weeks of hanging back from the debate over a proposed new Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse in Ellicott City, several members of the Howard County YMCA's board of managers spoke out on the issue, saying they remain firmly behind the plan despite local opposition.

Board members said they voted to sell 4 acres of the YMCA's Montgomery Road property to a developer seeking to build a Lowe's because the sale was the only way to pay for a badly needed new YMCA on the remaining land.

Many expressed impatience with residents' fighting the plan out of fear of increased traffic.

School board approves cuts in next operating budget

The Howard County school board approved Thursday many of the reductions Superintendent John R. O'Rourke suggested for next school year's operating budget request, in order to accommodate a shortfall in state and county money.

Some of the cuts include 14 new elementary school assistant positions that would have cost the district more than $200,000. Board members also had hoped to hire an additional manager and supervisor for the assessment office, but cut those positions as well, for a savings of $115,500.

Altogether, the board eliminated $6.29 million from its fiscal year 2002 operating budget, reducing the total to $368.8 million.

New director chosen for Howard libraries

With advanced degrees in music, library science and law, and a short stint teaching English in China, Valerie J. Gross jokes that her parents once feared she would be a student forever.

These days, Howard County's library director-designate is more about doing than learning - as shown by the children's programs she helped establish in Goshen, Ind., where she has been library director the past three years.

Gross, 40, is scheduled to replace the retiring Norma Hill, 70, July 1, at a salary of $90,000 a year. The new director is moving from a one-library town to a much larger, six-branch Howard system, scheduled to reopen a renovated central library in Columbia in November.

Politicians suggest panel to consider zoning reform

After months of deliberation, delay and dozens of amendments proposed for a 114-page zoning law revision approved two weeks ago, Howard County's politicians say they know exactly what to do next: Appoint a committee to consider more zoning reform.

That's the suggestion of the County Council's two Republicans - Christopher J. Merdon and Allan H. Kittleman - after watching many zoning procedural changes they proposed die in a voting session May 7. Other council members and County Executive James N. Robey like the idea.

Proposals such as requiring disclosure by both sides 30 days before any hearing, and making developers invite area property owners to a community meeting to tell them what is planned near their homes might seem simple enough not to require further study.

But Merdon, an Ellicott City councilman and slow-growth advocate who suggested the committee, said he has found that even developers' attorneys have some good ideas.

Legislator continues efforts for medical marijuana

The champion of legislation that would make medical uses of marijuana legal in Maryland says he is undeterred by a Supreme Court ruling Monday that federal law prohibits such a use.

Del. Donald E. Murphy, a Catonsville Republican, was outside The Mall in Columbia on Tuesday morning, waving signs at a rally supporting medical marijuana. Murphy has sponsored two medical marijuana bills, named after Darrell Putman, a Howard County farmer who died of cancer.

Tuesday's rally was the first of three scheduled last week in Columbia, Frederick and Silver Spring. They are co-sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington advocacy group.

Panel at impasse on proposal for child care center

After sitting through 13 months of hearings, the Board of Appeals deadlocked Tuesday night on a proposal to build one of the county's largest child care centers in a residential Ellicott City neighborhood.

Robert C. Sharps, chairman of the five-member county board, was absent. The panel will deliberate again May 31 after he listens to a tape of Tuesday night's hearing. Residents, who have battled the plans for a year and a half, were frustrated by the delay. About 50 turned out for the hearing.

Security Development LLC in Ellicott City asked for a special exception to build a center for up to 200 children at the northwest corner of Old Frederick Road and Rogers Avenue.

Program at golf course targets youths, minorities

Fairway Hills Golf Course in Columbia is poised to become the Maryland centerpiece for an innovative, national instructional program that aims to teach golf to children 8 to 18 who lack financial or other access to courses.

Backers plan to build, by the end of the year, an addition to the clubhouse at the Columbia Association-owned course as a base for the instruction. Also, they expect to have raised $200,000 in privately generated money, including heavy subsidies from the golf industry, to help underwrite the effort.

The program - to be called First Tee of Howard County - would be the first Maryland link in a national attempt to increase participation by young and minority group players.

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