Saturday, January 6, 2018

Old Hickory vs. New Hickory

Plans for updating the Hickory Ridge Village Center are back in the news again.

Friend and local blogger Harry Schwarz shared his testimony with me and I’m going to share it here to kick off some discussion. I must say that his perspective is not the one that I see most vocally espoused on social media. That doesn’t mean it is without merit, however. He raises some issues that are worth looking into.

Testimony to the Howard County Planning Board Hickory Ridge Village Center (ZB1119M) January 4, 2018

My name is Harry Schwarz, from 11668 Dark Fire Way, in the Clary’s Forest Neighborhood of Hickory Ridge. I also blog at I support the Kimco proposal. The people opposed to it want to keep things as they are, without acknowledging the changing world that we must grow into. They want to allow no growth, even as Howard County added 4,700 residents just last year (according to DPZ). Furthermore, the county is expected to grow by 14% between 2010 and 2035, an increase of about 40,000 people. We can create more suburban sprawl, eat up more of our open spaces, build more highways, and ignore environmental impacts, or we can implement smart growth and meet the challenge of more people by accommodating them in an ecologically sound way. I like to think that we are forward looking people in Howard County.

Increased densities in appropriate locations throughout Columbia, such as the Crescent and the Village Centers, is smart growth for Hickory Ridge, for Columbia, and for Howard County as a whole. Kimco’s proposal helps assure the continued viability of our community by providing additional choices of where to live, how to get around, and how to interact with the people around us. It improves the fiscal health of the County by reducing the need to duplicate infrastructure elsewhere and making efficient use of present capacity. Putting housing on land that currently serves as a parking lot helps reduce our consumption of land elsewhere and allows us to protect valuable open space, farmland, and habitat. Expanded transportation options become possible with higher ridership.

Columbia has always been a model of smart growth. From the beginning, it has been committed to creating “complete neighborhoods” by integrating multiple uses within close walking distance in order to accommodate people’s varying needs. By increasing the density of neighborhoods, Columbia retained more of our land for open space. Mixed land use and varying density are the cornerstones of smart growth. Kimco is offering a great place to live, with all the amenities we are used to, and the option to walk, dive, or ride transit.

 Kimco’s proposal serves the interests of Columbia and Howard County for smart growth. I urge your support.

 W. Harry Schwarz

Mr. Schwarz also envisioned what life would be life in a transformed Village Center in an earlier blog post. It’s a fun read, especially because it’s not the typical gloom and doom prediction.

I know this is a topic about which many feel quite impassioned. A reminder that I’m sharing Mr. Schwarz’s testimony not as an endorsement but rather as a means to beginning a discussion.

You can share your comments on the blog’s Facebook page.

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