On October 3, the Howard County Council unanimously approved the transfer of $600,000 in excise tax funding to conduct a traffic study of the Clarksville MD108 corridor from MD 32 to Linden Linthicum Lane (TAO No. 1 FY12). The bill as approved reflected input from a great number of community members, including the River Hill Community Association.
Residents may recall that in August the County had proposed a new capital project to fund road improvements in Clarksville that would include an easement to the Gateway School site. The project included funds to acquire the necessary rights-of-way and construct a new road to connect Auto Drive, Great Star Drive, and Maryland Route 108. When reviewed by the Planning Board, this proposal met with considerable public opposition. Concerns were raised about the impact on the Kendall Hardware and Clarksville Pizza Hut businesses and the Clarksville Post Office property. As a result, the County modified their request to only study ways to improve access and vehicular circulation around MD 108 in the Clarksville area. When approved, the bill included two important amendments.
The first amendment to the bill pertains to the Clarksville Pizza Hut. Over a year ago, Pizza Hut had submitted a site development plan to the County for a new retail and/or office building. The amendment to the bill stipulates that Pizza Hut has the freedom to go ahead and develop its property how it wants without fear of the land being suddenly claimed by the County for other development. The amendment states that the County cannot place a reservation on Pizza Hut’s land until June 30, 2012.
The second amendment pertains to a traffic study the River Hill Master Plan Committee and Village Board proposed. The Committee and Board proposed that the County perform a traffic study of Route 108 from Route 32 to Linden Linthicum Lane. The Council agreed, and passed the amendment unanimously.
The legislation provides a fantastic opportunity to find ways to improve traffic and pedestrian safety. Additionally, rather than having the County focus on just one small area (or one small road), the bill mandates that the County must study the entire region to find big scale solutions to the traffic and safety issues along MD 108.
The River Hill Master Plan Committee has been studying many of the traffic and safety issues around the Village Center. Committee Chairman Trevor Greene stated, “This legislation is exactly what we need in River Hill. There are serious safety issues that are going to get worse as Route 108 becomes increasingly developed. The original solution that was proposed was to build a small connector road that would have upset several well-loved local businesses. Many members of community testified, the County Council listened, and the legislation was amended and became really fantastic.”
During a discussion the County Council had when considering the legislation, Councilwoman Courtney Watson commented, “In addition, the County has the responsibility to not place stress on local businesses and on local communities. We have heard from many citizens of Clarksville who are outraged over what they perceived as the County’s actions and the loss of the post office in Clarksville. The only way I would consider possibly voting for this transfer ordinance is if it was used to study the entire corridor in Clarksville along 108 and improve traffic in that area…. I will state very clearly that I do not approve of how this situation was handled by the County, and I hope we have all learned some lessons from the way this was handled….”
During their October monthly meeting, the Master Plan Committee discussed the ramifications of this legislation. It was decided that the Committee will make every effort to communicate with the County to ensure that the traffic study is performed in a manner which will benefit local residents, businesses, property owners, and all other interested parties.