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Don't place shelter in residential areaThe opinions...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Don't place shelter in residential area

The opinions expressed by both Cecilia Januszkiewicz ("Long Reach no place for planned crisis center," Jan. 27) and Laszlo Takacs ("Don't place shelter near our schools," Jan. 27) are right on target. I would like to add Kings Contrivance since I reside in Kings Contrivance. Both locations are very similar in that they are smack in a residential area, close to schools, and close to shopping centers.

This is not about compassion. This is not about caring for those in need. Many of us in these two villages contribute significantly to support the causes of the organizations involved in this Center/Shelter. This is simply about the location of the proposed Center/Shelter and only about the location of the proposed Center/Shelter. It is very easy to confuse this point and feel that a vote against locating the Center/Shelter in one's neighborhood is a vote against the need for the Center/Shelter.

The importation and concentration of the services and shelter to be provided by the Center into a residential setting such as the proposed locations in Kings Contrivance and Long Reach will eventually create, at best, a disturbance and, at worst, a tragedy. Both will have a negative impact on the character of the villages, business and shopping at the village centers, and ultimately, the property values of the current residents.

Someone who has been involved in the operation of similar centers in the Boston area told me that they are always worried about visitors to the folks housed there. Some visitors are friendly, but some are not. With this in mind, my wife will feel much more vulnerable when she is walking the dogs - Who is "strolling" through our neighborhood? Who is parked on our streets?

There can no longer be any heads-in-the-sand. Violence is in Columbia. Just last week there were more stabbings and another murder in the Oakland Mills area. The same voices that will assure me nothing will happen here are the same voices that assured Oakland Mills nothing would happen there. They are the same voices that do not reside either here or there. They are the same voices that will not be "responsible" when something does happen.

It can easily be seen that anyone working at the Center/Shelter would love to be in these pleasant residential settings. It can easily be seen that, if HRD is going to donate land and recognize the tax advantages of such a donation, they would prefer to donate land that has more value such as land in these pleasant residential settings. HRD should be shamed for considering, even for a moment, donating this land for this reason. Their actions to date can only be interpreted as a complete lack of concern for the current residents.

To determine if there would be any positive impact on the village by locating the Center/Shelter in it, one need only ask "Will anyone want to buy and move here because the Center/Shelter is here?" In talking to some of my neighbors and some of the business owners in the Kings Contrivance Village Center, I have yet to hear from anyone who thinks the answer would be anywhere near a "yes." There are no positives, only negatives.

This Center/Shelter is just not appropriate for any locations that are smack in the middle of a residential area near schools and shopping centers.

James Medwin

Kings Contrivance

Commuter rail plan seems to ignore Howard

The proposed rail plan for the Greater Baltimore area is very interesting.

However, to indeed call it a rail plan for the Greater Baltimore area is misleading. What it seems to be is a throwback to the 1960s or 1970s, when "Greater Baltimore" was code for "Baltimore City and County."

There is no portion of the proposed new construction - either subway or light rail - which comes into Howard County. At present, approximately one-third of Howard County's commuters travel to a destination in or off of the Baltimore Beltway. The benefit of a light rail spur which would come from downtown, run parallel to I-95, providing a connection at UMBC along I-195 to BWI Airport, continuing to the vicinity of Route 175 or Route 32, running to Columbia Town Center would be tremendous. However, in the present proposal Howard Countians have to make do with a proposed rail line that runs to Arundel Mills, which is a substantial drive from Columbia or Elkridge. Given that length of a drive to access public transportation, I'm sure that most Howard County commuters would opt to continue to drive to work.

Howard's own transit system has enjoyed a period of tremendous growth over the past few years. Additionally, Howard County's location in the region makes it a logical place for a hub in a regional transportation system which could allow a traveler in the near future to go from White Marsh to Northern Virginia via public transportation. Therefore, why Howard County does not figure into the proposed regional rail plan, other than some expansion of existing service, is mind-boggling.

Public transportation is very much needed to alleviate traffic congestion in the area, as well as to protect the environment. It should be a no-brainer that Howard County is a de facto target of any regional transportation plan.

That it is not calls into question the validity of the plan itself.

Bill Woodcock

Columbia

(The writer is president of the Howard County Citizens Association.)

Sunderland aground on playing field issue

Once again, Lowell Sunderland can't seem to connect the dots regarding Howard County recreational issues. ("Playing Around," Jan. 27). In another opinionated, one-sided article he states reason after questionable reason for not building the 12th high school at the approved Marriottsville site. It seems like only yesterday (and many times prior) that Mr. Sunderland lobbied heavily on behalf of SAC to have ten (count 'em) new soccer fields built on Centennial Lane, and surely these fields will help to relieve the current strain on county rec fields, but Mr. Sunderland fails to mention this.

Mr. Sunderland surely must have read a recent article on overcrowded Mount Hebron's efforts to recoup adjacent acreage for more practice fields.

And surely he must be aware of SAC's planned involvement in the development of the 300-acre Smith Farm in Columbia, Blandair. Surely he must know that the Department of Education's first priority is the school-related needs of our students.

Will Mr. Sunderland call for SAC to do the civic-minded thing and offer their fields for occasional use by non-SAC leagues? Will he continue to applaud the efforts of residents to fight the 12th high school's approved location after so recently vilifying those living adjacent to SAC's 10-field Covenant Park?

J.T. Merryman

Ellicott City

New school boundaries absurd, need change

I have read the bantering going on between the pro- and anti-Centennial High School forces. While one can debate the relative wealth and merit of each school in Howard County ad nauseam, and argue about whether Centennial's status is more a product of perception then reality, one simple fact stands out. Because of the absurdity of present boundary lines, something not even tackled by the recent redistricting plans, my kids will be going to a different high school than the vast majority of their friends, many of whom live just down the street, and with whom they will have attended the same elementary and middle school. Unless this simple and devastating ingredient of the puzzle is addressed, the Howard County school system is not doing its job.

Andy Lazris

Ellicott City

Method of determining boundaries hurts kids

Now that the decision concerning the high school boundary lines has been made, we must begin the process of helping our children deal with the fact that, for many of them, they will be leaving behind many of their friends and their identities as they move to a new school in the fall and start all over again. We cannot underestimate the sense of loss some of our children are experiencing right now. To the parents and all school staff members - it is absolutely necessary that our children be allowed to express their sense of loss. Don't gloss over their emotions in the haste to transition them to their new schools.

To the school administrators and counselors who will be receiving these redistricted students in the fall, please understand that it takes time to develop feelings of belonging. School spirit and booster sales this first year may not be where you would like to see them but to try and force feelings of acceptance and belonging won't make the process happen any faster. Our kids will heal, but in their own time and space, not yours.

And, to the school board members, please find another way to populate the next high school. Moving children around like pieces on a chess board is not in their best interests. Nor is scheduling the final vote on the night before the last semester exam.

Valerie Wetstone

Columbia

Selection of school site short-sighted, rushed

Last night, the Howard County Board of Education acted with a vote of convenience in their approval of the site at Woodford Drive for the new 12th high school. Their cavalier attitude about students' safety was indicative of a complete lack of understanding of the nature of teen drivers and the nature of the roads and neighborhood at this location.

When asked about the impact of this new school on Route 99, we are only given data on the intersection of Woodford and Route 99, without consideration for the intersection at Route 32 and 99, already a disaster during the morning and afternoon rush. Nor are we told about the intersection of Route 99 and Marriottsville, a similarly busy crossing. The Board's response was that if the school site is approved, the road situation would be addressed.

This is not a free ride. Fixing major roads, like Route 32 and Route 99 is costly. The Board seems oblivious to the ripple effects of their decision. Taxpayers, particularly Howard County taxpayers with increasing assessments, will feel the effects of this decision if major road improvements are to be required, which they most certainly will be.

While the Board admits that this site is not optimal, but adequate, they say it may not be needed in the west now, but it will someday. I wonder if they are aware of the amount of farmland in this area and how much of it is in conservation, limiting residential growth.

Septic field questions were met with a simple "move the field" answer, and a remark that most of the community is on public water anyway, an indication that they have no idea of the very real fact that most are actually on well water. Further indication of a "lack of adequate homework being done" was the fact that they don't know where the closest residences actually are and that a 100--year-old house sits adjacent to the proposed stadium.

This vote was fueled by the Board's own short-sighted planning process and a seemingly carved-in-stone school opening date of Aug., 2005. This same behavior demonstrates that a lack of planning on their part creating an emergency on all our parts. For example, the community had a first look at the plans for this school on Jan. 3, followed by public input on Jan. 10 and a vote on Jan. 24, leaving little time for adequate response and research by the community. What are we to assume from this rush to judgment?

M. Linda Martinak, EdD

Marriottsville

Adler would bring fiscal responsibility

Steve Adler's announcement that he is going to challenge James Robey for Howard County Executive is a positive step for fiscal discipline that will benefit all of the citizens of the county.

Over the last four years, the budget philosophy in the county has been to consistently increase spending with little thought toward restraint. In nearly four years, the Howard County budget has increased 48 percent. Spending on education has increased 38 percent during the same period. By any standard, these numbers are remarkable.

A robust economy is always a politician's best friend. It's easy to follow the path of least resistance and spend money. Now, however, with reported tax revenues down for 2001, the presence of a real deficit between revenues and spending and the prospect of a lethargic economy for the foreseeable future, we need to have a county executive who is less beholding to special interests and is capable of taking a more practical and businesslike approach to the fiscal well-being of the county.

Steve Adler is a successful businessman and a long-time county resident. He understands the importance of economic cycles and he has spent his career fashioning realistic and, at times, austere budgets. Mr. Adler has demonstrated the discipline that conforming to an uncorrupted balance sheet demands.

Times change, and at this time Howard County needs a chief executive capable of making fair but hard choices. Steve Adler understands that the nearly 50 percent increase in the budget in four years is a situation that must not continue. He understands the impact that ever-increasing tax burdens have on all of the county's citizens.

Coming from a culture where a finite pool of dollars naturally imposes fiscal discipline, Steve Adler will provide a balanced and creative approach to administering county government.

Carl LaVerghetta

Ellicott City

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