Group starts paring ideas


More than 50 people have spent the past four months mapping the possibilities of Ellicott City's future.

Now that task force is working with government officials to meld the ideas into one coherent master plan - Ellicott City's first since the 1970s.

The proposed plan will be presented to Howard County Council for review and possible action.

Among the suggestions are establishing better controls on development, reducing visual clutter along U.S. 40, protecting Main Street properties from possible flood damage, and encouraging development of more social services.

"There's some really great ideas here," said County Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican who organized the group. "But we've got to make it more manageable."

Merdon explained that the hundreds of suggestions made by task force members would have to be consolidated and organized into a more streamlined package.

The task force, a mixture of appointees and volunteers, was divided into four groups: Development and Infrastructure, the Historic District, Route 40 and Quality of Life. The groups met once a week to discuss possible changes and recently put their ideas on paper.

Representatives from the four groups are meeting to consolidate their drafts - totaling 45 pages - into a final they hope to present to the County Council this winter.

Residents who worked on the plan hope it will help county leaders shape a more "coherent" Ellicott City.

An outdated plan from the 1970s allowed haphazard development of areas of the city, especially along U.S. 40, noted Grace Kubofcik, who was co-chairwoman of the committee on development and infrastructure.

"We need a plan that is fairly directive about the way to utilize space," she said.

Among the group's major recommendations:

Form a public-private partnership to help fund the repair of deteriorating walls and foundations along Main Street, which county officials fear could collapse during a large storm or flood.

Find ways to provide seniors with better access to health facilities, particularly those who live in remote parts of the community.

Provide financial incentives for the expansion and establishment of child care centers. With growing numbers of working parents in the community, committee members noted a shortage of child care facilities. One recent proposal for a substantial child care facility in Ellicott City was blocked by neighborhood opposition.

Install more signs directing and welcoming visitors to historic Ellicott City.

Reduce visual clutter along U.S. 40 by 2005 by limiting window, temporary, neon and portable signs.

Earmark money from parking meters for parking improvements, including a garage, pedestrian walkways and trolleys.

"A lot of ideas will not make it to the final document," Merdon warned task force members.

Some goals, such as putting a parking structure in Ellicott City or improving road quality "shouldn't be a problem," he said.

But suggestions such as increasing the power of the Historic District Commission to limit development will be more difficult because "the political will for that is just not there," he said.

"There will be a fine line to walk," Merdon said.

The development of an Ellicott City master plan was one of three suggested in a countywide general plan approved by the County Council last year.

The other two, which would focus on Elkridge and North Laurel, are expected after the Ellicott City plan is completed, Merdon said.

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