Planning board signs off on Columbia redevelopment

30-year-plan for downtown now in hands of Howard County Council

The county’s planning board Thursday unanimously approved an ambitious, 30-year plan to redevelop downtown Columbia, leaving the future of the planned community’s center in the hands of the County Council.

However, the board issued no opinion on accompanying legislation that would change zoning laws to allow the future development.

Dave Grabowski, chairman of the planning board, said the group felt it could not make a recommendation on the zoning regulation without knowing what the final version of the plan will look like once the council has approved it.

That decision may prevent the planning board from weighing in on the zoning portion of the redevelopment in the future, as the council could vote on that portion when it takes up the redevelopment plan, without waiting for board recommendations.

The plan for downtown Columbia calls for 5,500 new residential units, 5 million square feet of office space and 1.25 million square feet of retail space.

The plan, as proposed by General Growth Properties Inc., would develop downtown Columbia in stages over the course of 30 years.

Council member Calvin Ball, whose district includes part of Columbia, said council members will give consideration to the planning board’s recommendations, but said it was important for the council to examine the development plan and the accompanying zoning changes together.

“Passing on and then moving forward to the other, I’m not sure if that’s the best process … for the public or … for the actual movement in downtown Columbia,” he said.

Source: Columbia Flier, Sarah Breitenbach (9/18/2009)

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