Dobbin Center leases part of Upton's space to patio, pool store

A patio-and-pool store is leasing part of the former Upton's department store building at Dobbin Center, and the real estate agent leasing the building is hoping to soon release the name of a larger retailer to occupy the rest of the space.

News of the Upton's building lease comes on the heels of an announcement that Wal-Mart will lease the former Kmart building in the same shopping center.

The Upton's lease is a sign of revitalization for the aging shopping center and reinforces the strength of Columbia's retail markets outside its village centers, analysts said.

"Columbia is a strong retail market," said Bob Morris, an agent with real estate company NAI KLNB Inc.

30-townhouse project opposed by neighbors

The months-long struggle over a proposal to squeeze 30 new townhouses for senior citizens on a 6.9-acre lot off Frederick Road in Ellicott City neared its climax at a hearing Monday night with sharp comments from opponents.

"Frederick Road can't handle any more traffic," said Angela Lovern, who lives directly opposite the driveway where residents would enter the proposed development. She testified before the county Board of Appeals' hearing examiner that more traffic would worsen already hazardous conditions. In 2000, a driver rear-ended her vehicle as she made a left turn into her driveway, Lovern said.

The crowd at the hearing in the George Howard Building was eager for a decision, but hearing examiner Thomas P. Carbo said he would listen to additional evidence March 31 before deciding whether to allow the proposed complex. The later hearing was scheduled to allow opponents of the complex time to review additional materials submitted by the developer, he said.

Save Cedar Lane school, parents of students plead

Politicians and state officials heard impassioned appeals Monday to save Columbia's Cedar Lane school for severely disabled students, despite federal guidelines that threaten such schools.

The pleas came during a meeting at the school set up at the request of parents who have been frightened by a recent letter from Howard educators warning that alternatives to the school would be considered for Cedar Lane's students.

"I'm willing to do whatever it takes to preserve what I know is my daughter's second home," an impassioned Christine Zidek told representatives from the Howard County Council, House of Delegates and the county executive's office, along with members of the Maryland Department of Education who had gathered to tour Cedar Lane and talk about its future.

The 22-year-old school, which is in dire need of replacement, is one of the relatively few separate facilities in the state meant to educate those with multiple and profound disabilities, many of whom cannot walk, talk or even swallow.

Honduran immigrant convicted of murder

An illegal Honduran immigrant was convicted of second-degree murder Monday in the beating and stoning death of his 29-year-old roommate in woods behind Columbia's Flowerstock Row last spring.

A Howard County jury took five hours to return the guilty finding for Marcos Escalante, one of three men charged in the mid-May death of Antonio Ayala, despite claims by Escalante's attorney that his client had been a secondary player in the crime and was only protecting himself when he hit Ayala.

Montgomery Road zoning issue heats up

Battle lines are being drawn over the future of a busy Ellicott City road, dividing the people who live on the stretch from everyone who lives near it.

Landowners across from Long Gate shopping center on Montgomery Road - including some who live in houses there and are sick of the noise, trash and traffic from the center - want commercial zoning instead of residential. Residents who live around them hate the idea of any more businesses in the congested area. The roughly 39-acre area in question, between Long Gate Parkway and Old Columbia Pike, also includes a church and Howard County's only YMCA.

County Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, a Republican of Ellicott City who met with about two dozen residents from nearby subdivisions Tuesday night to discuss rezoning, said he would like to get all the parties together to work out a plan - in particular because he wants to see an elementary school built in that stretch.

Transfer tax proposal tabled by legislators

Chances of increases in Howard County income and/or property taxes grew Wednesday with the death of a proposal from County Executive James N. Robey to increase the county's real estate transfer tax to raise $215 million for school construction.

Members of the county's state legislative delegation - including all three county senators and four delegates - voted in Annapolis to table the proposal without considering its substance, which avoided a direct vote against money for county schools.

The move appears to leave county officials the choice of raising other local taxes or building fewer schools.

Guzzone proposing ban on some fireworks

Ground-display fireworks - like the kind that burned a Harford County house last year - would be banned in Howard County under a bill expected to be introduced in the County Council tomorrow.

Council Chairman Guy Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat who is sponsoring the bill with two other Democrats, said he wants to prevent accidents.

Guzzone said he is responding to complaints he received last summer when bundles of fireworks were sold from a tent on the parking lot of Owen Brown Village Center in his district.

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