- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2001

Columbia, a planned community from the beginning, has run out of plans. Officials there said the Maryland city has "developed out" and needs to focus on maintaining its services instead of continuing to build.
The unincorporated city was created 34 years ago by the Rouse Co. as a multiethnic and multiclass neighborhood and has roughly 90,000 residents. If it were incorporated as a city, it would be the second-biggest city in Maryland.
The city — which is about halfway between Baltimore and Washington in Howard County — has expanded about as much as it can and is slowly determining what its focus should be for the next five to 10 years, Columbia Council member Joshua Feldmesser said.
"Because our plans are up, some people fear that we are on the decline," Mr. Feldmesser said.
Mr. Feldmesser, a lifelong resident of Columbia, said the city has few of the worries most large cities face, such as high crime and poverty rates. The city's most pressing issue, he said, is the future of its pools.
"We have protected ourselves from the problem of sprawl because we are so well-planned," he said. "But now, we are a planned community that doesn't have a plan and we don't have a plan to get a plan. I just want to start talking about the issues."
Elizabeth Humphrey, associate director of Smart Growth America, a nonprofit community-planning advocacy group, said there are several options when a planned community becomes planned out: Move the edges out, grow upward or stop growing altogether. That last option is not an attractive prospect for new business, she said.
She said a problem Columbia officials may face when planning is delays from Howard County officials. Because it is not incorporated, Columbia must get the county's approval on all planning and zoning changes.
"They don't have the power to rule themselves. That means you need more political will to get there," Ms. Humphrey said. "The county needs to be a partner with Columbia if they are going to address the issues."
Lanny Morrison, chairman of the Columbia Council, said the council has a collegial relationship with the county government and doesn't expect any problems in the future.
He said the 10-member council will develop a strategic plan by the end of the year that will establish what topics to focus on, such as the upkeep of aging public buildings.
"We need to focus on maintaining what we have, which is substantial, and making it affordable and available to the people of Columbia, Mr. Morrison said.

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