West Columbia awaits the state's reassessment hit


While east Columbians are still smarting from sharply higher Columbia Association assessment fees, soaring home values are about to hit west Columbians and possibly cause even bigger bills, officials say.

The state is reassessing property in west Columbia, where homes are expected to increase in value by a "substantial" amount, according to the state assessor's office.

Sewage plant expansion spurs optimistic outlook

Howard County's sewage treatment plant is on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's "needs improvement" list for nitrogen pollution, but county officials say completion next year of a major plant expansion should help change its status.

"We're working very diligently toward upgrading our nitrogen-removal ability. There was a goal, which we are meeting," said county Department of Public Works Director James M. Irvin, referring to a promise not to put more nitrogen into Maryland's waterways despite enlarging the plant.

Councilman's rezoning idea surprises residents, others

A Howard County councilman's suggestion to create an office-institutional zone on a highly controversial stretch of Montgomery Road in Ellicott City has surprised residents, property owners and development interests.

At a comprehensive rezoning work session Nov. 6, Ellicott City-Elkridge Republican Christopher J. Merdon asked Council Chairman Guy Guzzone for three minutes to explain his reasoning behind what he described as his "toughest issue since coming into office." The proposed community center transition district is "a low-intensity zone, and it offers the possibility of senior housing," Merdon said.

The owners of several single-family homes - which are on the section of Montgomery Road that is directly across from Long Gate Shopping Center and near Route 100 and U.S. 29 - say they believe the area is not desirable for residents because of traffic, noise and trash.

Affordable-housing quest reaches the fairway

The quest to provide affordable housing in Howard County has reached a new frontier: the fairway. Builders for Waverly Woods, a mixed-use community and golf course on the western edge of Ellicott City, are seeking federal tax credits for 102 moderately priced senior apartments.

And Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center has agreed to include moderate-income housing if the County Council agrees to increase the number of units it can build.

Suspension after girls' kiss prompts River Hill protest

A civil rights demonstration that started Nov. 5 with two heterosexual girls kissing in the River Hill High School cafeteria, an act that earned each a two-day suspension, spilled into last week when two other students held a protest Tuesday outside the Clarksville school.

Sixteen-year-old juniors Mia Freyer and Anna Boyland - carrying signs that read "Down w/ Homophobia!" and "Don't: hate or discriminate" - stood along Route 108 Tuesday to fight prejudice and the disciplinary action taken against their friends.

River Hill Principal Scott Pfeifer said he did not realize there was a problem, but he added that often the administration is the last to know.

Kittleman upsets Robey during budget debate

Western County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman's words brought a red-faced Howard County Executive James N. Robey out of his seat on the stage of Bushy Park Elementary school's auditorium Monday.

"We lost $40 million [in future income tax revenues]. Where did that go?" Kittleman, a Republican who voted against higher income taxes, asked the more than 150 parents there to debate their crowded, 27-year-old school's future.

Amid partisan bickering over the county's continued budget woes and the big income tax increase championed by Democrat Robey, the executive is trimming government spending to get through yet another leaner-than-expected year, he said.

Police find pipe bomb at home of boy, 14

A 14-year-old Fulton boy was arrested after he told a Reservoir High School staff member that he had a pipe bomb, police and school officials said Thursday.

The teen, who was arrested after school at his home Wednesday, did not threaten to use the pipe bomb at the school or against students, police and school officials said.

Authorities searched the boy's home and recovered the pipe bomb Wednesday afternoon, police said. He was charged with manufacturing and possessing an explosive device, and was released to his parents a couple of hours after the arrest, police said.

Schools must return $3.1 million by June 30

Howard schools will have to return $3.1 million to the county by June 30 to make up for a shortfall in income tax revenue, Superintendent John R. O'Rourke told Board of Education members Thursday night during a meeting.

County Executive James N. Robey had informed O'Rourke hours earlier that he would have to give up 1 percent of the school system's $310 million budget to soften the blow of a $10 million tax deficit from the fiscal year that ended June 30.

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