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How come HoCo’s elected officials fail to recognize the level of citizen dissatisfaction?  How come HoCo government treats existing citizens as badly as the cable companies?  How come “Quantity over Quality” has become our county motto?

Beware the Double Double Ds.  No, I’m not referring to the lingerie size of well-endowed women– or the shoe size of mega men.  I’m talking about the legions of established residents of HoCo who are generally feeling ‘dissed’:

  • Disillusioned
  • Disappointed
  • Disenchanted
  • Disgruntled

To ignore this reality would be unwise. To think the sentiment is held only by a small group of activists would be very unwise indeed.

Citizens are most disturbed by the runaway pace and density of development. Downtown Columbia is only the most recent example, if also the largest.  The upset over Columbia is running in tandem with the Bethany area of Ellicott City where over 600 residents recently attended a pre-submission hearing. They were preceded by the efforts of folks defending against development at inappropriate levels in:

  • the Havilland Mill area,
  • Church Road area in Historic Ellicott City,
  • the Allbeth Community in Ellicott City,
  • Historic Greater Highland Crossroads
  • Clarksville (the Mortuary and Hoddinott properties)
  • Maple Lawn South in Fulton
  • Dayton
  • Historic Savage
  • Elkridge
  • And many, many others—before them and to come

disgruntled manCitizens are sorely disappointed that despite their success in electing new leadership to HoCo government, it has NOT resulted in any measurable positive change. Citizens remain powerless to protect their communities from rampant development which fundamentally changes the nature of their communities. Historic communities have been particularly hard hit.

It is the current and past leadership at the top and on the Council which has unwisely proposed and passed legislation focused on economic development through population growth without regard to grossly inadequate public facilities and the declining quality of life. Residential development never pays for itself and the deficit gets greater when developers are not asked to contribute more to the infrastructure.

People have NOT gravitated to Howard County for its ‘Urban vibe.’  They came for a suburban life style in which to raise their families—one with a strong sense of community, whether in a Columbia ‘village’ or an established neighborhood.

disillusioned TshirtAt the center of the situation: The issue of property rights has been taken to an extreme. Yes, property owners have a right to develop their property, but not in ANY way they might wish, to the detriment of the existing residents. (Think: Since the advent of zoning one has not been able to put a rendering plant next to a daycare facility.) The zoning and subdivision regulations which are designed to protect citizens have been so manipulated in HoCo as to now be totally ineffective.  With density exchange and overlay districts, waivers and variances, all of the zoning categories have been blurred.  Regardless of the zoning, one barrack-style attached unit development looks like every other one put on a denuded site. Is this the image HoCo wishes to project? Is this the best we can do?  Do we not see that MORE isn’t necessarily BETTER?

Upon reflection I believe the Double Double D sentiment results from HoCo government treating its longtime resident taxpayers like the cable companies treat their customers

irrate womanNo one likes the way cable companies bombard you with ads (by snail mail, e-mail, ads in newspapers, and on-line) for offers which you, loyal customer of x years, are not entitled. They are just for NEW customers. They continue to attract NEW customers while taking the old for granted. No matter how many NEW customers come on board there is never a reduction in fees, never more staff to provide quicker customer service or to shorten the wait for repairs.  Citizens are forced to bundle channels we don’t desire in order to get those which we do.  We are constantly invited to spend more for better, faster, more.  Our comments fall on deaf ears and things do not improve—except for the cable company itself. (Think: Verizon has increased their fees almost 4 fold over 15 years creating profits which enable them to buy out Yahoo for $5 billion today.)

So it seems with NEW residents to HoCo.  HoCo is publicly struggling with its conscience when it debates affordable housing opportunities.  The realization that we have become a county of unaffordable housing has been evolving.  The divide between haves and have nots, reflected in the spacious windows of their mega mansions or luxury apartments, is widening. These are the NEW customers HoCo desires to attract. That is because they represent increased borrowing capability to the bond rating agencies.

What can citizens do? How can they assure their opinions do not continue to fall on deaf ears?  They must organize and mobilize and look beyond their specific neighborhoods’ zoning, subdivision, and development issues. They must care about what is happening in the other neighborhoods. They must support the efforts of other neighborhoods so that they will in turn help support theirs.

If you are ready to join with citizen activists from across the county to bring about countywide change, there is an opportunity to do so this very evening:

July 25, 2016    7:00 to 8:30 p.m.    St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 12700 Hall Shop Road, Highland, MD 20777(at the corner of MD Route 216).

Bring a friend, your concerns, and a determination to make positive changes—and meet me on the highroad,