Town Center board asks Howard Council to pull Inner Arbor funding

The Town Center Village Board has requested that the Howard County Council temporarily withhold $1.5 million pledged to the Inner Arbor Trust in the 2015 proposed budget.

The Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation created by the Columbia Association to develop 36 acres of woods in downtown Columbia, known as Symphony Woods, into an arts park. Symphony Woods is located in Columbia's Town Center village. 

The plan for the development, which is in the county's Downtown Columbia Plan approval process, will build a curated park on the site that includes a guest services building made of glass and mirrors called the Butterfly, an outdoor, shell-like amphitheater built into a hill called the Chrysalis, a 300-foot-long floating picnic table, and the Caterpillar, an 800-foot-long, 15-foot-high tube dividing the park from neighboring Merriweather Post Pavilion.

In a letter addressed to the council and County Executive Ken Ulman, the board asks that the money be withheld until the project is through the county's approval process, which is expected to happen later this year.

The board also questions the decision to fund the Trust with taxpayer dollars since its meetings are closed to the public and the level of public support for the plan is "questionable."

At a recent county council budget work session, two resident spoke out against funding the plan.

Since the plans were adopted by the Columbia Association in February of 2013, Ulman has been a supporter of the new design. In his 2013-14 budget he pledged $5 million to the Trust to be used toward specific projects.

While there is support for the plan, it also has its detractors. A faction of Columbia residents is asking CA to switch to an alternative plan that is an updated version of a previous plan approved for the park.

The CA board chose the Inner Arbor plan over the previous one, known as the Paumier Plan.

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