Planning Board to continue hearings on proposal for Merriweather land

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Howard County Planning Board voted last night to continue public hearings for another month on a proposal by General Growth Properties to develop the land around Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The board heard more than three hours of testimony from residents opposed to the plan last night.

In the end, board members voted to continue the hearing Feb. 24. Even if both sides finish giving closing arguments at the next meeting, the board's guidelines allow up to 30 days to vote on the issue, and even then the board could vote to delay a decision for another 30 days.

General Growth's proposal - to build office and retail buildings on the 51.7 acres of undeveloped land next to Merriweather - has been at the center of community debate for months.

Last night, the board heard from representatives of Columbia's villages, who urged them to put off their decision until a master plan for downtown Columbia can be developed. County Council members have discussed such a plan.

Letters from representatives of Columbia's villages were read into the record in opposition to General Growth's proposal at the board meeting last night.

So far, one resident has testified in favor of the plan.

Last night, Columbia resident and former Planning Board member Joan Lancos said she believes General Growth has met all of the required criteria.

But the testimony that drew the most scrutiny from the board was given by Robert Tennenbaum, who helped plan Columbia when it was built in the 1960s. He criticized General Growth's proposal and concluded that it shows "obvious disdain for good and responsible planning."

Tennenbaum also questioned the adequacy of a traffic impact study submitted by General Growth.

"There is not a developer in the world that would hire a traffic consultant who will say their plan doesn't work," he said.

Board member Tammy Citara Manis said she agreed that the study may be biased and asked, "What can we do?"

Tennenbaum answered, "The county needs to do its own report."

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