HCCA’s mission is to articulate the concerns of Howard County residents and to find solutions. We initiate and testify on legislation as well as holding listserve discussions and meetings with county officials. Programs on timely subjects are presented for the public, and we often work in partnership with other organizations. The support of our members makes all this possible:HCCA is the only organization advocating for citizens on a broad array of Howard County issues.
Highlights of the past year’s accomplishments are as follows.
Responsible Land Use
Developers have increasingly used Zoning Regulation Amendments (ZRAs) to facilitate profitable development of a site that violates comprehensive zoning regulations. The result is piecemeal development that is counter to the General Plan; ZRAs also have unintended consequences on other properties.HCCA has testified innumerable times against these bills, before the Planning Board, the Zoning Board and the County Council, and has often prevailed. Now, HCCA wants to get a bill restricting ZRAs.
Working with the Concerned Citizens of Western Howard County, HCCA got a bill initiated and passed, that extended the requirement for pre-submission meetings with developers to include review of plans for commercial, institutional and government buildings, not just residential construction. This legislation is intended to keep residents informed of development in their communities.
In February the County Council ignored informed citizens by enacting a Columbia Downtown masterplan with unrealistic density. HCCA used three county traffic studies to repeatedly demonstrate in testimony and meetings with Council members, that the density permanently exceeds the capacity of roads accessing Route 29, by a factor of 35-60%. We also quoted the Public Works director’s testimony that water treatment plant capacity will be exceeded, resulting in contaminants flowing into our rivers and the Bay. HCCA will continue to monitor related bills including those affecting traffic volume, to try to mitigate the damage done.
Voting Rights – Referenda
As an outcome of the infeasible Downtown legislation, a referendum was initiated, challenging the density. Referendum is a constitutional and state charter right that enables the public to reject bad legislation, at the ballot box. However, unrealistic signature requirements defeated the referendum petition. Moreover, those requirements effectively block all referendum attempts by
citizens. HCCA testified in favor of bills that would resolve this but state legislative machinations defeated the bills. As a result, HCCA is paying filing fees for two lawsuits, and one of its board members is providing some pro bono legal services to get the petition requirements declared unconstitutional. We will also continue to press for state legislation.
Public Services – Health
Concerned and even outraged by the 4-8 hour waiting period for patients in the Howard County General Hospital Emergency room and the fact that
ambulances were advised to go elsewhere 40% of the time, HCCA founded a committee to address this problem. The committee issued excellent reports of its research findings and a continuing committee is focusing on urgent care facilities as part of the solution. The County Executive, the Health Department and the Hospital have responded constructively, and partial improvements are underway. HCCA will continue to promote this effort.
This annual report was released in May 2010 is available by clicking here.