What Columbia is all about (by Dick Boulton)

What Columbia is all about

by Dick Boulton, Columbia Association Board Member , from Village of Dorsey’s Search

When you are in Columbia, you know you are in Columbia.

There is a cohesiveness, a sense of place. Columbia does not look or feel like a typical suburb where multitudes of developers have strived to maximize ROI on their own little pieces of turf. It does not look like Route 40 where every property jarringly competes for individual attention. Instead, synergy prevails.

Stuff fits together in Columbia. There is a calmness, dignity and continuity to the overall design. Things appear in the places they ought. Residential areas, village centers and the urban core are segmented to complement but not intrude upon one another. Commercial areas are visible but compact and unobtrusive. Major throughways wind through the terrain with attractive landscaping and limited access. Driveways are restricted to secondary roads. Unsightly distractions are set back and screened from view. Utilities are buried underground. There are no billboards. Signage is discrete.

In Columbia, the natural landscape is treated with respect. Open space has been set aside. Wetlands are preserved. There are beautiful lakes and many miles of walking trails and bikeways. There are also playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis courts, playing fields, fitness facilities and other recreational amenities – all designed and situated to meet the lifestyle needs of Columbia residents.

While outparcels occasionally intrude, they are fortunately scattered and only serve to contrast with and prove the appropriateness of the Rouse master plan.

The beauty of the Rouse plan is that it was built around people. Ours was to be a community where people could live, grow and prosper. Commerce was secondary to the concept. Businesses were for providing services and employment opportunities to residents, but residents were the primary concern. Rouse even put making a profit fourth on his list of four key objectives. The Rouse organization has since been divided between outside enterprises that feel varying degrees of stewardship over the original vision. It is for this reason that the County and the Columbia Association must step up and step in to assume responsibility. Rigorous oversight is essential; wise development must be the norm.

Columbia has grown dramatically over the past 50 years, but growth has been largely well-managed. With most of the residential areas built out, focus is now on development of the urban core. This seems to be working out well enough, but care needs to be taken to see that further construction remains within the context of the Columbia vision. This should apply as well to the Gateway area, which is also being eyed for development. Too much of the easternmost section of Columbia demonstrates the effect of lax enforcement of codes and covenants. Snowden River Parkway is a case in point.

Central to Columbia’s urban core is the Symphony Woods/Merriweather Pavilion acreage. The present scheme needs to be reviewed for feasibility and affordability. Rouse had intended this land to become Columbia’s Central Park, and It is critical to the function and vibrancy of our urban core that this expectation be met. We also need to improve public transportation to reduce local traffic congestion and provide high-speed connections to Baltimore and Washington.

Columbia began as a utopian dream, but with inspired leadership, it has been surprisingly successful and is today a model for building other communities that focus on inhabitant wellbeing. Columbia has prospered for over fifty years. It is now our responsibility to make sure it continues to for the next 50.


By Chao Wu: Considering the heated debate (on Industrial Mulching and APFO, school redistricting) on Howard County Council on 9/9/2017, the issue is really that we need a planned development and a long term strategy for our county. Then what is the status of implementing the Plan Howard 2030? We need hold politicians accountable.

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