Chart School Application

HCPSS BOE is receiving its first charter school application, at least in my term. Here it is the application document for discussion on Thursday May 27, 2021. The school will be located in Elkridge and focus on students with needs.

The report provides the evaluation of the Reading Opens Doors, Inc charter school application. The original letter of intent and application were received on August 7, 2020 with the final application documents received on March 4, 2021. The applicant’s focus is to maximize the academic abilities of K-5th vulnerable and marginalized children and help them to pursue their dreams.

Here is the application pdf file.

The Housing Opportunity Master Plan for Howard County with my comments

Who are on the committee?

Maybe I missed, I did not see any Asian Americans on this committee, nor Latino Americans.

Some comments on the challenges raised in the report

CHALLENGE #1: LAND USE, PLANNING, AND ZONING

Housing supply has not kept up with housing demand, particularly over the last decade and given recent employment growth. This imbalance between supply and demand is leading to rising affordability issues.

Wu Comment: what is the goal (balance point) for the demand and need? If we don’t define it, we will see this argument for life.

CHALLENGE #2: LAND USE, PLANNING, AND ZONING

A lack of housing diversity throughout Howard County inhibits racial and socioeconomic integration. Historically disadvantaged populations, lower-income households and households experiencing poverty find that most of the housing options affordable to them are concentrated in only a few locations. This challenge is especially problematic considering that most remaining land and school capacity is in the Rural West, where current zoning regulations largely prohibit affordable housing development of any kind.

Wu Comment: But they are keeping building low-income houses in a few buildings in the Columbia downtown area, instead those should be spreat out. The newly proposed policies keep the same old, ill-practice.

CHALLENGE #3: LAND USE, PLANNING, AND ZONING

New development today is less diverse than the housing inventory overall. In recent years, new development has shifted in favor of rental apartments, and—at the same time—the for-sale market has largely stopped building smaller, attainably priced for-sale housing.

Wu Comment: there are only limited lands available and only 7% land left for development in Howard County.

CHALLENGE #4: PROGRAMS AND POLICIES

Howard County lacks a cohesive strategy for prioritization, policy/program design, and resource allocation.

Wu Comment: The policies are driven by developers such that loophole and exception everywhere.

CHALLENGE #5: PROGRAMS AND POLICIES

Existing resources are not sufficient to meet current and future capacity and demands (e.g., schools, transportation, etc.) while also dedicating funds to housing goals.

Wu Comment: That is the reason we need slow down new development to make sure the current school capacity and infrastructure to catch up first. Keeping building more and we will never catch up.

CHALLENGE #6: PROGRAMS AND POLICIES

It continues to be difficult to supply housing for diverse populations, with significant needs going forward.

Wu Comment: this is a very vague statement and it be applied anywhere they see fit.

CHALLENGE #7: PROGRAMS AND POLICIES

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic disruption is exposing and exacerbating housing insecurity.

Wu Comment: This is true.

  1. Housing security actually relates to job security. Sometimes policy with good intention can lead to larger harm. Remembering the 2008 finance crisis which crippled many many families, was built on the assumption: everyone should buy a house.
  2. Another is a sound personal financial management. How to spend the money we have wisely is not an easy task.

CHALLENGE #8: PROGRAMS AND POLICIES

A large portion of housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income households in Howard County is older and at risk of deterioration and/or redevelopment going forward.

Wu Comment:

  1. Yes. We need revitalization on those houses with policy, monetary and community support.
  2. Look at the affordable housing debate in 2016, a proposal by Council Member, now state delegate Jen Terrasa where the proposal required 15% affordable units in all new housing development. It did not pass the county council. Here is the article I wrote at that time: https://chaowu.org/2016/07/27/columbias-downtown-and-affordable-housing/
  3. Another event showed developers’ influence during the last APFO update vote. The developers were sitting in the George Howard Building. In that night past 12 o’clock, some of them shouted on social media: your vote was illegitimate because of some procedure violation. I could not recall much detail for that night now unfortunately.

CHALLENGE #9: HOUSING AND INFRASTRUCTURE

The Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (“APFO”) is placing significant limitations on the amount of housing that can be built, and it is
potentially accelerating those capacity issues by limiting the ability to increase the tax base.

Wu Comment: New housing development could not pay for itself, neither school funding nor other infrastructure cost. Here is my calculation for your reference: https://chaowu.org/2021/05/10/some-math-about-hcpss-funding-needs-and-gaps/

The whole report is here:

HoCo County Council Bill CB 24-2021

HoCo County Council Bill CB 24-2021

CB24-2021 has two amendment areas.

  1. The first addresses the addition of a public ethics report to be made by applicants for development regarding campaign contributions/business with County Council members and/or the County Executive.
  2. The second would prohibit action on proposed zoning regulation amendments during a period leading up to the adoption of a new Howard County General Plan (specifically, nine years after the implementation of the current plan up until the new plan is adopted – this plan is currently on a 10-year cycle, thus this would apply one year before adoption).

While staff cannot estimate a direct impact on HCPSS without knowing what proposed regulations may be delayed by the bill, generally they would agree with the notion that if changes to the General Plan are imminent within the next year, passing new zoning regulations may be counterintuitive to the purpose of the plan itself to provide guidance.

The video is here:

4th SAAC Presentation materials-12/17/2020

SAAC Meeting Schedule

  • 19-Nov 7:00-9:00am      General and fiscal update
  • 3-Dec    7:00-9:00am      CIP – Education
  • 10-Dec  7:00-9:00am      CIP – Infrastructure
  • 17-Dec  7:00-9:00am      CIP – Infrastructure / other big projects
  • 7-Jan     7:00-9:00am      Commercial Base & Business
  • 14-Jan   7:00-9:00am      Operating budget – Overview & Education
  • 21-Jan   7:00-9:00am      Operating budget – Other Agencies
  • 28-Jan   7:00-9:00am      Economic Outlook & Long-Term Demographic/Development Trends
  • 4-Feb    7:00-9:00am      Revenue, Debt, Multi-Year Projections
  • 11-Feb  7:00-9:00am      Recommendations for the Report
  • 25-Feb  7:00-9:00am      Report Writing  – Draft review

Two presentations on December 12, 2020

Howard County Office of Transportation
FY 2022 Presentation to Spending Affordability Advisory Committee – December 17, 2020

Ellicott City Flood Mitigation

HoCo SAAC presentations on county capital projects

Four slides for you to read

  1. Road Resurfacing, ADA Ramps, Sidewalk Repair, Street Tree, Store Drain Repair, Traffic Signalization
  2. East Columbia 50+ Center, Detention Center, Bain 50+ center, Utilities RTU
  3. Downtown Columbia Capital Projects: New Culture Center (, $47.7 million, FY22), New Central Library ($40 million, FY25), Banneker Fire Station ($20 million, FY28), New Elementary School ($34.6 million, FY30), Traffic Improvements($95.1 million, FY 32), Transit Center ($12.3 million, FY 32)
  4. New Central Library (Estimated cost 68 million (construction 53 million, garage 13 million))

Public Notice: Howard County Local Bills Hearing 11/17/2020

The Howard County Delegation of the Maryland General Assembly, chaired by Senator Clarence Lam and Delegate Jessica Feldmark, will hear testimony from the public on proposed local bills and Legislative Bond Initiative requests. No testimony on other issues will be permitted as a second hearing devoted to statewide bills will be scheduled. 

The hearing will be held virtually at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 17.  Members of the public may register to testify or to watch the hearing through WebEx by going to https://howardcountymd.webex.com/howardcountymd/onstage/g.php?MTID=e1b32cd17996caef752a24df9f0944fd1 and clicking on “Register”. Registration will be available by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 9, and will remain open until 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 16. Written testimony may be submitted by email to HowardCo.DelegationStaff@mlis.state.md.us. Members of the public may testify on any or all of the proposed legislation within their allotted time to speak. Oral testimony will be limited to two minutes per bill up to a total of five minutes for three or more bills. The hearing will also be streamed live on the Howard County Delegation’s Facebook page.  

Full text of the proposed Howard County bills can be accessed, as they become available from Bill Drafting, beginning Monday, November 9, 2020, at 6:00pm on the Howard County website (Home>About HoCo>State Delegation>2021 Session Proposed Local Legislation):  https://www.howardcountymd.gov/About-HoCo/State-Delegation/2021-Session-Proposed-Local-Legislation. Please monitor this page regularly for the most recent updates. Short descriptions of the local bills and a list of bond initiative requests are included below.

Bond Initiative Requests

Humanim – Remodeling Gerwig, Ho. Co. 16-21; $150,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Patuxent Commons, Ho. Co. 17-21; $500,000

By: Howard County Delegation

8125 Main Street Reconstruction and Renovation, Ho. Co. 18-21; $500,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Centennial Park ADA Improvements, Ho. Co. 19-21; $500,000

By: Howard County Delegation 

Harriet Tubman Cultural Center Playground, Ho. Co. 20-21; $200,000

By: Howard County Delegation 

Robinson Nature Center Amphitheater and Stage, Ho. Co. 21-21; $100,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Expanded Tiber Park, Ho. Co. 22-21; $500,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Patapsco Female Institute Chapel, Ho. Co. 23-21; $300,000

By: Howard County Delegation 

Historic Barnard Fort House, Ho. Co. 24-21; $150,000

By: Howard County Delegation

East Columbia 50+ Center, Ho. Co. 25-21; $1,000,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Harriet Tubman Cultural Center, Ho. Co. 26-21; $750,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Ellicott City Quaker School, Ho. Co. 27-21; $150,000

By: Howard County Delegation

Proposed Local Bills

Howard County – Alcoholic Beverages – Delivery, Ho. Co. 1-21

By: Delegate Watson

FOR the purpose of authorizing a holder of a Class A alcoholic beverages license in Howard County to deliver alcoholic beverages in the county; authorizing certain employees of a license holder to deliver alcoholic beverages; requiring that an employee making certain deliveries be of a certain age; requiring an individual receiving a certain alcoholic beverages delivery to provide certain proof of age; providing for the manner in which an individual receiving a delivery of alcoholic beverages provides proof of age; requiring the Board of License Commissioners for Howard County to approve a certain certification; requiring the purchaser of certain alcoholic beverages or a certain designated individual of a certain age to be present to receive a delivery of alcoholic beverages; and generally relating to alcoholic beverages in Howard County.

Howard County – Class A Alcoholic Beverages Licenses – Quota by Election District, Ho. Co. 2-21

By: Senator Guzzone

FOR the purpose of altering the quota system for Class A licenses in Howard County so as to limit the issuance of the licenses to not more than one for a certain number of residents in each election district, rather than in the county; and generally relating to Class A alcoholic beverages licenses in Howard County.

Howard County – Alcoholic Beverages – Alcoholic Beverages Inspectors, Ho. Co. 3-21

By: Chair, Howard County Delegation

FOR the purpose of authorizing an alcoholic beverages inspector to issue a citation in Howard County; requiring an inspector to complete a training program in the use of arrest authority and pertinent police procedures; prohibiting an inspector from carrying a firearm in the performance of the inspector’s duties; requiring the Howard County Police Department to employ certain inspectors, rather than requiring the

Chief of the County Police Department to provide a sworn member of the County Police Department as an inspector; requiring the Chief of the County Police Department to have certain authority over the hiring of inspectors; and generally relating to alcoholic beverages in Howard County.

Howard County – Alcoholic Beverages – Class B Beer, Wine, and Liquor License – Off–Premises Consumption, Ho. Co. 4-21

By: Delegate Watson

FOR the purpose of authorizing the holder of a certain Class B beer, wine, and liquor license in Howard County to sell beer, wine, and liquor for off–premises consumption, subject to certain requirements; repealing certain provisions that authorize the Board of License Commissioners for Howard County to issue a certain permit to a certain holder of a certain Class B beer, wine, and liquor license; and generally relating to alcoholic beverages in Howard County.

Howard County – Board of Education – Redetermination of Geographic Attendance Area, Ho. Co. 5-21

By: Senator Lam

FOR the purpose of requiring the Howard County Board of Education to submit a certain annual report on the program capacity of each permanent school facility, beginning in a certain school year; requiring the county board to submit a certain report to the General Assembly and the Howard County Delegation to the General Assembly under certain circumstances; requiring the county board to implement certain processes set out in a certain policy to make a certain assessment; requiring the county board to submit a certain report to the General Assembly and the Howard County Delegation regarding the outcome of a certain assessment under certain circumstances; defining certain terms; and generally relating to the target utilization of permanent school facilities in Howard County.

Howard County – School Redistricting – Public Testimony, Ho. Co. 7-21

By: Senator Lam

FOR the purpose of requiring, during a school redistricting process in which the redistricting plan proposed by the Howard County Board of Education differs from the redistricting plan proposed by the Howard County Superintendent of Schools, that the county board allow a certain number of members of a household whose school assignment is changed only in the county board’s plan to provide public testimony before the final vote on either school redistricting plan; and generally relating to the Howard County Board of Education and school redistricting.

Howard County – Howard County Board of Education – School Safety Personnel, Ho. Co. 10-21

By: Delegate Atterbeary

FOR the purpose of requiring the Howard County Board of Education to develop a plan to implement certain school safety guidelines that does not assign school resource officers to public schools in Howard County and uses adequate local law enforcement coverage to implement the guidelines; and generally relating to school safety personnel in Howard County.

Howard County – Howard County – Commercial Building Excise Tax – Board of Education Deferred Maintenance, Ho. Co. 11-21

By: Delegate Atterbeary

FOR the purpose of authorizing the County Council of Howard County to impose a certain excise tax; requiring the County Council of Howard County to specify the types of buildings subject to a certain excise tax; authorizing the County Council of Howard County to impose different tax rates on certain construction; requiring the excise tax to be deposited into a certain fund to be used only for a certain purpose; requiring

the Howard County Board of Education to submit a certain report on or before a certain date to the County Council of Howard County, the Howard County Executive, and members of the Howard County Delegation to the General Assembly; requiring the County Council of Howard County and the Howard County Executive to submit a certain report on or before a certain date to the Howard County Delegation to the 15 General Assembly addressing certain recommendations made by the Howard County Board of Education; providing for the termination of certain provisions of this Act; and generally relating to deferred maintenance in the Howard County Public School System.

Howard County – Fee–in–Lieu of ModerateIncome Housing Units – Prohibition, Ho. Co. 12-21

By: Delegate Atterbeary

FOR the purpose of prohibiting Howard County from authorizing payment of a fee–in–lieu of a requirement under local law that a developer provide moderate–income housing units in a new residential development project; and generally relating to moderate–income housing unit requirements in Howard County.

Howard County – Homeowners Association Commission – Alternative Dispute Resolution Authority, Ho. Co. 13-21

By: Delegate Terrasa

FOR the purpose of authorizing Howard County to establish a homeowners association commission to hear and resolve, through alternative dispute resolution, certain issues between a homeowners association and a homeowner regarding certain documents; and generally relating to the resolution of disputes between homeowners associations and homeowners in Howard County.

Howard County – Residential Rental Licenses – Fee for Tenant Services, Ho. Co. 15-21

By: Delegates Feldmark and Terrasa

Bill still in drafting. Check this webpage for updates or email  HowardCo.DelegationStaff@mlis.state.md.us to request to be notified when bill text is available for review.

Eliminate fee in lieu development loophole

My short comment on The Business Monthly

I appreciate Mrs. Lisa Markovitz’s article “Can we get affordable housing more affordable”.

I totally agree with that: “this “fee in lieu of” has created a concentration of AFUs in areas with lower-priced housing”. I am seeing a few low-incoming housing projects are being proposed in the low-incoming neighborhoods now. Our advocates on affordable housing either from the community, the county council or the county government should work to remove this “pay as you go” approach. The county has the legal authority to set the criteria for the new development to meet both the affordable housing requirement and APFO standards. We should not allow developers to set this policy. 


There are several  key questions to be answered. What is a reasonable level and distribution of affordable housing units in the whole county? How much more development the county can consume in each area considering APFO? Please take consideration of the cost of infrastructure (school capacity, for example) as another key parameter. What is the highest percentage of affordable housing which will prevent developers not building houses in Howard County anymore? 
I hope this kind of information is publicly available for our county residents to see and understand and guide our policy-makers on new housing developments. 

My article on Baltimore Sun: Proposal for central library in downtown Columbia

I wrote a short article on the Baltimore Sun ( which will be shared on Howard County Times, Columbia Flier).

I am worried about the lack of coherent plan and long term vision for the county. There is a plan to relocate the central library in the 2016 Downtown Columbia TIF plan. Now the County Executive and County Council changed hand, there has not been any discussion (or serious discussion) any more. Recent discussion on the Toby theater, Downtown Culture Center, Affordable housing prompted me to write this article. Columbia will be totally built out soon and we need to process with caution on every land use.

I also shared similar concerns during yesterday’s BOE and County Council meeting. Where do we find school site land for the students from planned 30,000 population for Downtown Columbia?

Any decisions we make today will have a long-term impact for our future. One example is the Turf Vally development where APFO requirement was waived and no school site was reserved. Now we need pay over 6.5 million dollars for an elementary school site (around 10 acres). If they planned/reserved for a school site 20 years, it was probably free.

The reality is that people made those decision some time ago either moved up or retired. We are bearing the consequence now. I believe we can do better.

Timbers at Troy Revenue and Expenses in the last 10 years

Last week I made a motion to put HS 14 in Elkridge back into HCPSS long term capital budget and the board approved that motion. I have been receiving some feedbacks from the community. One feedback is about the Timbers at Troy golf course. That golf course was discussed as one possible HS 14 site.

Here is the Timbers at Troy revenue and expenses in the last ten years. The golf court unfortunately is running red for the last several years. It lost 1.4 million in 2017, 0.439 million in 2018 and 1.5 million in 2019.

I am wondering how many golf courses the county owns and how well they are running in the last 10 years. I know Columbia Association’s golf courses have been facing some financial difficulties in the past several years too. How can we improve this situation? Or the sport of golf is not as attractive as before?

Affordable Housing and Pay As You Go Loophole

Howard County Citizens Association is asking the County Executive and County Council to adopt a bill to remove a loophole for developers. I came to know this loophole when Howard Hughs was proposing a new large scale downtown development with county finance help in 2016-2017. The TIF (Tax Increment Finance) was 170 million. They did not build the affordable housing units as promised in their previous developments and then they used affordable housing units again as a wedge to get their new deal approved. Here is the article I wrote four years ago on this issue: https://chaowu.org/2016/07/27/columbias-downtown-and-affordable-housing/: Columbia’s Downtown and Affordable Housing .

We should not allow developers to pay a tiny fee to skip the affordable housing requirements in their project. I am especially looking forward to affordable housing proponents to put the pressure on the county council and the county executive and remove this loophole.

We should put the developers’ interest aside and the residents’ interest first.

HCPSS 2020 Fall Reopen Discussion

Here are three documents for you. Decision 5,4,3 passed by the board. The superintendent will come back later with the removal of Digital Education Center and a revised plan. Updated: 2020-07-09 22:30.

The first two are the superintendent’s recommendation on the fall schedule.

The second one is from Howard County Educator Association (HCEA).