Columbia Council member proposes simpler government

The Columbia Council may be pondering its own demise, part of a radical change proposed by a council member in the hope of simplifying the complicated web that passes for government in the planned community.


Council member Joshua Feldmark of Wilde Lake said at a council meeting July 24 that he considers it confusing and ineffective that the council doubles as the Columbia Association's board of directors.

He believes it is bad for the town that its leaders - depending on which village they represent - are elected to either one- or two-year terms. And he is convinced that Columbia would benefit from having one official elected communitywide.


Housing for seniors planned near Route 100

It might not seem like an obvious location for seniors-only homes - the backdrop is an office park rather than a golf course - but a developer is betting that older people will be eager to rent next to Route 100 in Howard County.

Gary Baxley, president of Baxley Development Inc. of Columbia, is planning to build 100 apartments on a little less than 2 1/2 acres on Columbia 100 Parkway between a day care center and a hotel. Offices and homes are nearby.

The four-story apartment building would have a movie theater, beauty salon, library and solarium, along with gyms, business offices and game rooms. Baxley expects rental costs to range from $1,200 to $1,600 a month.

Hoping for compromise, council delays vote on tract

Hoping for a last-minute, negotiated settlement, the Howard County Council on Wednesday tabled until next month a bill to authorize court condemnation of the 3-acre Oliver homestead, which sits across a planned entrance to the Maple Lawn Farms mixed-use project.

Homeowner James A. Oliver and his wife are refusing to sell their property, which features an unusual collection of mature trees, for the $382,000 suggested by an appraiser.

"I'm not closing any doors at this point," James Oliver told the council last week, adding that "it's not going to be an easy thing" to reach an agreement.


Columbia man charged with sex assault on child

A Columbia man was arrested Wednesday and charged with sexual offenses and second-degree assault against a 5-year-old girl near a pond last week, Howard County police reported.

Police said Miguel Ramos, 34, of the 5800 block of Stevens Forest Road in Oakland Mills was awaiting an appearance before a court commissioner.

Police said the girl was attacked in a secluded area near Jackson Pond in Long Reach about 2 p.m. July 27.

Meanwhile, county police were reassuring Oakland Mills residents about crime concerns in the wake of Howard's most recent homicide - a shooting in that village Saturday - and promising to open a satellite office in the community.

County Council adopts school enrollment chart


With five separate votes, a series so technically convoluted that the process provoked chuckles from several of the members, the County Council unanimously approved a new school enrollment chart Wednesday that will limit development around crowded elementary and middle schools in 2006.

The action - taken at the council's last meeting until Sept. 2 - represented the end of an exhausting, two-month effort to approve a chart that saw 13 variations before one finally won agreement.

Ehrlich's cuts total $613,666 for Howard

Howard County's share of the state's latest - and final - round of budget cutting pain this year is $613,666, and officials said Thursday they are prepared for it.

Health Department grants were cut $48,832, and county public schools lost $32,033. That left the bulk of the cuts to Howard Community College, which must absorb a $532,801 loss. Additionally, county recreation officials got word last week of a new $35,000 Maryland grant funded from state boat titling taxes to develop new boating facilities at Centennial Lake.

The state cuts are the last this budget year, according to Henry P. Fawell, spokesman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. That could leave Howard County Executive James N. Robey free to distribute $9 million he set aside until Ehrlich's intentions became clear. The money was originally intended to pay for the second half of a promised 4 percent pay raise to county employees.


Horse rescue group seeks its own home

Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Lisbon, which has found homes for nearly 1,000 abused and neglected horses in its 14 years, is looking for a permanent home of its own.

After renting space in two locations, "what we want to do is get our own farm so we won't ever have to move again," said Kathleen Schwartz, who founded the organization with her husband, Allan. The nonprofit organization has outgrown the 20-acre farm it rents.

When it moved from Mount Airy in 1995, the rescue had 37 horses. Now it rehabilitates 55 horses at a time, putting a strain on its facilities.