Proactive Engagement in Land Development Needed
Disclaimer: This letter only represents Dr. Chao Wu’s personal opinion. It does not represent River Hill Board of Directors nor Columbia Association’s Board.
The letter will be published on Nov 2018 issue of “The Villager” of River Hill Community Association.
The Patuxent Storage Facility under construction near Guilford Road at the entrance to the Patuxent Branch Trail in the Village of Kings Contrivance has recently been the focus of the Columbia Association’s (CA) board of directors and many residents. The issue is the location of the access to the storage facility. Rather than entering from Guilford Road or through adjoining CA open space, the developer chose to locate the entrance using a road which for many years has been used by the public to access the Patuxent Branch Trail. This decision resulted in many residents feeling unhappy about the developer’s choice. After numerous meetings, the county has agreed to pay at least $200K to build a new pathway connector to the Patuxent Branch Trail. This new connector will run through CA open space to replace the old, nearly 200-meter pathway that will be used by the developer to access the storage facility The CA board eventually approved a land easement so the county can build this separate and new pathway to ensure public access to the trail, pedestrian safety, and minimize the environmental impact of the project.
What was missing in this project was a quick and direct communication between stakeholders. The community needs a coordinated effort from our county council (zoning approval agency), the county government and developers. The community needs to be informed early in the process. In some cases, the community does not necessarily oppose the development, but would like to provide input to make the development better. Columbia has been a planned community from the start and residents expect future growth to be planned with community input.
In the Village of River Hill, the association’s board of directors has been actively engaging in the process as development occurs around the village. Even on issues as small as the right turn exit by the McDonald’s, the association has coordinated with Kimco Realty several times to improve safety because some drivers make illegal left turns there. Current projects the association is reviewing and providing input on are: the Erickson Living Continuing Care Retirement community with a capacity of more than 1200 residences; the redevelopment of the garden center as the River Hill Square commercial project, Cedar Creek (formerly the Simpson Oaks) residential development with 184 units; and most recently the Robinson Overlook 48-unit affordable housing development proposed on Grace Drive.
The board seeks to bring our residents’ concerns to the developers, zoning board, county government, and even the State Highway Administration to make sure that proper consideration is given to the impacts on traffic and safety and residents’ quality of life. The community association welcomes residents’ participation in various committees established by the village board so that we proactively engage with stakeholders as development projects arise. To find out more about the Traffic and Safety and Development Committees visit https://www.villageofriverhill.org/board/committees/.
Finally, please don’t forget to vote in the Primary Election on Tuesday, November 6. It is our civic duty and a perfect opportunity to begin to engage with the development process.
Chao Wu, Ph.D.
River Hill Representative to Columbia Council and Columbia Association Board of Directors