Every ten years Howard County is required to develop a General Plan that provides a big-picture vision about the long-term future of the County. That process is happening now. The new General Plan under development, called HoCo By Design, will establish clear policies on how and where the County will develop and grow as it adjusts to economic, environmental, and social conditions.
This is a big deal. It is important that HoCo by Design reflects the will of the residents of this Village. Our voices matter. On September 11, at 7:30 p.m., the RHCA Board of Directors will host a Town Hall with County Councilmember Deb Jung and Mr. John Healy, a University of Maryland Law School graduate who worked for the Rouse Company’s legal department during the start-up stage of Columbia, to discuss the impact of the proposed General Plan on Columbia and the Village of River Hill. The River Hill Development Advisory Committee is drafting a working document and letter to the Howard County Council raising specific concerns about the vision this plan creates for the potential doubling of the population of Columbia and the transformation of the character of the Village Centers. Historically, Columbia, including its Open Space and neighborhood concept, have been protected by legislation that created the community called “New Town Zoning.” That could end.
HoCo by Design abandons New Town Zoning and calls for the redevelopment of Village Centers into “Activity Centers,” with boutique retail shops beneath multistory apartment buildings lining streets with various forms of parking. Coupled without adequate schools, public transportation, and emergency services, the proposed plan falls short of creating the vision of a strong, vibrant community for the multi-generational, diverse community that many of us call home.
HoCo by Design will cause the loss of open space. This is counter to the 2018 Chesapeake Bay Program that includes protecting and expanding the upstream riparian zones. Protection of the Chesapeake Bay is a critical feature for the ecology and economy of the State of Maryland. One of the goals of the residents of Howard County should be the protection of the Chesapeake Bay and its vast watershed of which we are a part. Historic Ellicott City was developed without adequate water management systems in place and floods have caused human deaths and the destruction of multiple properties. The residents of River Hill should encourage their elected officials to learn from past catastrophic events and plan more carefully and conservatively. Allowing the use of Columbia’s Open Space to build connections to new or existing roadways is contrary to the protection of our treasured tree canopy. We can and must do better.
The River Hill Community Association Board of Directors has been following the HoCo By Design concept and providing input since it was first introduced. Board discussions and River Hill residents’ comments have raised specific concerns and issues. The RHCA Board sent a letter in January stating their concerns to the Department of Planning and Zoning. The River Hill Board has placed HoCo by Design on its September 11 meeting agenda and is inviting your comments during the Town Hall portion of the meeting starting at 7:30 p.m. The Board further requests that residents contact District 4 County Councilmember Deb Jung or testify at the Howard County Council Public Hearing at 7 p.m. on September 20 to voice your concerns about HoCo by Design. Register to testify at https://cc.howardcountymd.gov/legislation/testify. To send comments to Councilmember Deb Jung, visit