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Grant sought to finish plan


A grant proposal submitted to the state today could mean a $10,000 jump-start for the Ellicott City Master Plan, which has been on hold for want of a good editor.

The plan steering committee is asking the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development for a grant to fund the editing through the Community Legacy Program. The Ellicott City Business Association offered to put its name on the request as administrator of the potential funds, and last week the County Council approved the application.

The money would allow the steering committee to hire a professional planner to edit the current master plan draft into a concise, accessible document.

The Community Legacy Program is intended to help communities develop comprehensive revitalization plans. Jared Spahn, president of the Ellicott City Business Association, said the original plan, written in the 1970s, outlined revitalization steps in the aftermath of Hurricane Agnes. This time again, he said, "we have to be able to prove that Ellicott City and the historic district is a community in need.

"That is the toughest task," he said.

Spahn, who is president of Old Town Construction, also said this grant proposal is not the last possibility, but one means of funding the committee is exploring. The committee originally sought money through the county executive's office but was denied because of county revenue problems.

The state is expected to respond in a month, and many people are eager to move forward.

"To have come together as a group of citizens ... and put in the better part of a year's worth of work, and then see it languish had been frustrating and disappointing," said Charles Kyler, who has an Ellicott City graphic design and production business and serves as co-chairman for the plan's historic district committee.

More than 50 people worked during the past year to compile community input about Ellicott City's future. The draft document includes ideas for controlling development, protecting Main Street from flooding, providing social services, improving parking and achieving other goals.

Now the results of four committees need to be presented in one clear voice, said Janet Kusterer, president of Historic Ellicott City Inc. and a member of the historic district subcommittee. Elements need to be streamlined, and some points will need to be illustrated by charts or photographs.

"We're not looking for a glamorous product, but a product that will be easy to understand and implement," Kusterer said.

"There is a sense of urgency on the part of the committee to have the plan completed by spring of next year," said County Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican who has helped organize the planning effort from the beginning.

While many people think the plan will be helpful during a comprehensive county rezoning effort expected to take place next year, Merdon said it will still be important if they do not meet that timeline.

After a new version is completed, Kusterer said there are plans for another period of public feedback. Then the plan will be given to the county executive.

After that, the County Council can adopt, amend or reject the plan. Kusterer hopes that when the organizers show the plan is backed by the community, the council will be receptive.

"I think that this is not just a play exercise," Kusterer said. "This is something that is very much needed."

"I think county government will appreciate the input of the community," she said, "which is why we are still working to get it to its finished form."

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