Saturday, September 27, 2014

Smoke and Mirrors

Today's post owes a huge debt of gratitude to friends who jumped in with information on the topic. First of all, I got this explanation from a former Owen Brown Board member.

The Village Boards have the power to recommend boundaries as part of their Master Plan. That definition, once provided to the Department of Zoning, would then be taken into account and used as part of the criteria a developer would have to address as part of any plan submitted to the county. They aren't per se defining the boundaries as proposing them. It has to do with both who can file for a proposal to redevelop a village center and what are that plan must include as part of the overall plan they must provide. If you are interested, read this.

Now Oakland Mills already had a good Master Plan, developed during the Revitalization Process. So what is this all about? This answer comes from a former Wilde Lake Village Board member.

When New Town Zoning was amended to allow for Village Center redevelopment, one of the first things that needed to be decided was where exactly the Village Centers are. If you look at the Columbia Preliminary Development Plan (it is a map with lots of colors on it, designating land use), the location of the Village Centers is ill-defined. Village Centers are represented by asterisks on the map, with no delineated boundaries, therefore, the boundaries needed to be defined. Under the new zoning, Columbia Community Associations were given the ability to develop a Village Center Community Master Plan. One of the criteria of that plan is to state what the Community Association believes are the boundaries of the Village Center. All Community Associations that have undertaken a VCCMP have done this. I am pretty sure you can find the Hickory Ridge and Kings Contrivance VCCMP's on their websites. The key here is that it is not an official declaration. The official boundary is determined by the Howard County Zoning Board (aka the County Council), and only after going through the Village Center redevelopment process in the New Town Zoning. There is a lot of other criteria that needs to be considered. I would suggest looking up the zoning regulations for more information.

Alright then, the power of the magic marker may not be as mighty as I had feared. Still--consider this:

The area inside the proposed Oakland Mills Village Center boundary is approximately 205 acres. To give you an idea, the proposed OMVC area (in acres) is about two times the size of Lake Kittamaquandi (27 acres), Wilde Lake (22 acres), and Lake Elkhorn (37 acres) combined -- plus add in Centennial Lake (50 acres)

Other Village Centers come in at closer to 80 acres. And the Hickory Ridge plan and (I think) the River Hill plan did not include existing apartments and condos. So stretching the proposed boundaries to include areas of housing is what is making the difference.

Why is this happening in Oakland Mills? This recently approved document may give you some answers. A careful reading will, in my opinion, reveal what some board members mean when they talk about "reinventing" Oakland Mills.

Here is the Hickory Ridge plan. The boundary language begins on page 12. Here is the Harper's Choice plan--boundaries discussed in pages 12-13.


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