Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Suburbanizing the Village

Columbia, Maryland which was envisioned by one of America's premier planners, JAmes Rouse in the 1960's is facing some tough challenges that threaten it's village center vision.

The village centers was based off of a zoning provision called the "Gatekeeper rule" allowed Columbia to control growth in it's ten village centers to make sure villages always kept a small town feel. Each village center has a gathering place that features amenities like, grocery stores and other essential shops, public schools and recreational centers that are within walking distance of most residents. However the Baltimore Sun reports:

"But a changing economic landscape has taken its toll on the village centers. The introduction of big-box stores in Columbia - such as a Costco on Route 175 and a planned 160,000-square-foot Wegmans supermarket - has drawn away customers.

In Wilde Lake Village alone, a small Giant supermarket closed in 2006. And this year, Produce Galore and Great Clips, a hair salon, shut their doors."

Currently there is a new proposal to raze much of the Wilde Lake Village in favor of a new 500 unit housing development. As a planner, I would like to see Columbia maintain it's original character and not relax it's regulations for a potential short term gain. Columbia is the one of the few communities in Howard County (which is the 3rd richest county in the U.S.) that has a sense of place and does not feel like a combination of sprawling subdivisions and commercial strips.

I would hate to see Columbia lose the precedent of maintaining tight regulation control when developers do have the ability to changed their development to conform to local regulations and codes. What is your opinion?

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