Monday, December 11, 2017

Columbia: Light Up!

As the population in Columbia continues to grow, so too does the traffic. That means that traffic jams are on the rise and need to be controlled. The best way to do that is to add more traffic lights. That's why I have selected a few intersections throughout Columbia that have become more congested over the years and therefore warrant a traffic light. All though many of them are a result of the redevelopment in Town Center and the new trail going between the Hospital and Blandair, there are others as well. The intersections are divided by the Villages. Wilde Lake is the only Village in which no additional traffic lights.

Dorsey's Search
Dorsey Hall Drive/Entrance to Dorsey's Search Village Center 
Harper's Choice
Harper's Farm Road/Rivendell Lane
Route 108/Eliot's Oak Road
Route 108/Cedar Lane
Eliot's Oak Road/Hesperous Drive (South)
Hickory Ridge
Freetown Road/Hickory Ridge Village Center (North)
Cedar Lane/Harriett  Tubman Lane/Robinson Nature Center
Freetown Road/Atholton High/Hawkeye Run
Hickory Ridge Road/Campus Drive
King's Contrivance
Seneca Drive/Shaker Drive
Guilford Road/Blue Sea Drive/Hammond HS
Guilford Road/Old Columbia Road
Oakland Mills Road/Guilford Road/Glen Oaks Lane
Vomerhausen Road/Savage Guilford Road
Long Reach
Dobbin Road/Columbia Crossing II
Snowden River Parkway/April Crook Circle
Route 108/E. Red Branch Road
Tamar Drive/Phelps Luck Drive
Oakland Mills
Steven's Forest Road/Farewell Road/Nightstreet Hill*
Thunderhill Road/Route 108
Stevens Forest Road/White Acre Road
Stevens Forest Road/Camelback Lane/Santiago Road
Thunderhill Road/Twin Knolls Road
Owen Brown
Cradlerock Way/Homespun Drive*
Cradlerock Way/Lasting Light/OBVC
Snowden River Parkway/Rustling Leaf
River Hill
Route 108/Trotter Road
Great Star Drive/Daybreak Circle (North)
Great Star Drive/Route 32 Ramps
Route 108/Linden Linthicum Lane
Route 108/Clarksville Square
Trotter Road/Summer Sunrise Drive
Town Center
In Town Center many streets names will be repeated so some will be appreviated on the map.
LLP/Wincopin Circle
Mall Ring Road/Broken Land Parkway
Mall Ring Road/Twin Rivers Road
Mall Ring Road/Town Center Avenue
Mall Ring Road/Windstream Drive
Mall Ring Road/Sterrett Place
Twin Rivers Road/Broken Land Parkway
Hickory Ridge Road/Symphony Woods Road
Symphony Woods Road/South Entrance Road

*Instead of current or proposed roundabout.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Applying the Rules of Redistricting II: Middle Schools

Just like the Elementary Schools, redistricting is being proposed for the Middle Schools throughout the County. Unlike the Elementary Schools, there is no new Middle School opening in the 2018-2019 school year. In fact, there is no opening date for the proposed MS#21 in the southeast which will likely also provide relief to the northeast. There's no site either but I think the large Mission Road site purchased by the County is a good place for it.

10-15 years ago, the County obtained a site via a land swap with a Church, giving them the site for Locust Park ES in Long Reach that was never built. The County got 40 acres at the southeastern corner of Route 40 and Marriottsville Road that they had intended to bank for a future Middle School. This school and this site haven't been mentioned in a while since the need for a Middle School in the northern area of the County hasn't been there. However in the coming years, both Burliegh Manor and Mount View, whose districts border this still undeveloped site, will both be VERY crowded. This site, and the Middle School that will inhabit it, will provide relief and from hereon out will be known as MS#22. Like MS#21, there is no proposed opening date nor is it on any Capital Budgets.

Back to the 2018 Middle School Redistricting. Like the Elementary Schools, I have scaled back the redistricting plans to only include what is very absolutely necessary. In areas that are crowded and will become crowded without nearby capacity, I have left these areas alone because when a new Middle School opens in that area, it will be redistricted yet again. Now, without further ado, I will introduce my redistricting plans region by region.

East Columbia 
I have selected East Columbia's Middle Schools to provide relief to the northeast. Both Oakland Mills and Owen Brown (Lake Elkhorn) can stand to grow in population and create balance not only in population but equity in construction funds. As I have stated before, I'm against building the addition on Ellicott Mills Middle to relieve its crowding and leaving Oakland Mills as a small old school. Instead, I propose tranferring the funds for the Ellicott Mills addition to the Oakland Mills MS Renovation project, and turning the renovation into a replacement school for Oakland Mills with a capacity of 662-701. The redistricting for Ellicott Mills to the now larger Oakland Mills will relieve its crowding.

Owen Brown (Lake Elkhorn) has a larger capacity in its current state but is under crowded. This is why I have proposed redistricting here from Mayfield Woods and Thomas Viaduct which will become over crowded again to balance out Owen Brown (Lake Elkhorn.)

West Columbia
I'm not proposing any redistricting in West Columbia. Although a replacement school for Wilde Lake Middle just opened and it's much larger than its predecessor, it is slated to become crowded in a few short years. Anything redistricted here from Harpers Choice will have to be redistricted yet again when that crowding comes to fruition. The solution for this is another replacement school. This time for Harpers Choice. This will ensure Harpers Choice doesn't become crowded again and may have room in future years to relieve Wilde Lake which without redistricting will still be over crowded.

Although Oakland Mills MS has relieved Ellicott Mills and Owen Brown (Lake Elkhorn) has begun to provide relief for Mayfield Woods and Thomas Viaduct, more relief will be needed. This time, Elkirdge Landing will lend a hand. There will be no changes to Bonnie Branch as it is balanced. When MS#21 opens, there will need to be additional redistricting in the northeast but nothing that is slated to be redistricted now will be redistricted again.

No redistricting is proposed for the northern region even though there is a lot of crowding in the coming years for Middle Schools here. There are however, some capital improvement projects on the way which will up the capacity in this area and begin to relieve crowding. Both Dunloggin and Patapsco have renovations and additions proposed. I would like both of those projects to be converted to replacement schools. Any redistricting in this area can be done after those schools open. MS#22 will be needed in this area as well to relieve Burliegh Manor and Mount View.

No redistricting other than the small Hammond MS/Oakland Mills MS adjustment discussed in the East Columbia section. MS#21 will solve additional crowding in this area when it opens.

The western region has space in its Middle Schools as well. Lime Kiln however is slated to become very crowded and will need its neighboring schools to provide relief for it. Clarksville MS and Folly Quarter will do just that. There will be no changes to Glenwood.

And this concludes the Middle School portion of my "Applying the Rules of Redistricting." In it I have provided some relief for some schools and increased the population for others. In other instances I left crowded areas alone that need an additional Middle School and/or are having their current school undergo a Capital Improvement Project in the coming years and using a wait and see approach. I have also advocated for school equity by suggesting replacement schools at Oakland Mills, Dunloggin, Patapsco, and Harpers Choice. Stay tuned for the High Schools.    

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Applying the Rules of Redistricting I: Elementary Schools

Now you didn't think I would write up the rules of redistricting without coming up with my own plan did you? Well, whether or not you thought so, I did. This plan uses a much more minimalist approach to the number of Schools effected and number of kids moved. I used the mantra that over-crowding can't be remedied in one go around and areas that are getting a new or replacement school in the coming years will remain untouched until said School opens to avoid redistricting the same Neighborhood(s) twice. This is the first of three posts regarding these plans focusing merely on the Elementary Schools by region.

East Columbia.
No changes for East are needed. Talbott Springs is the only crowded school in this region and is slated to get a replacement school in 2021. The replacement school will be much larger thereby taking care of the crowding in the current building without redistricting.

West Columbia
Other than the River's Edge Community, (see Western Region) no changes are needed here either. It's very true that many of the schools here are crowded or will become crowded, ES#44 will open/reopen at the Faulkner Ridge site in 2027 and any short term redistricting proposals for West Columbia will see the same Neighborhoods redistricted then. Another thing to note here is that 100 seat addition on Swansfield is merely to stem the existing district's crowding and can't take anymore students. If Bryant Woods and/or Running Brook were to get replacement Schools, any redistricting done should occur once so as not to redistrict the same Neighborhood twice.

Since this is where the most crowding is and where the lone new school (ES#42) for 2018 is opening, it makes sense that the most redistricting will occur here. First lets list the schools in this region that won't see any changes; Elkridge, Ilchester, Veterans, and Worthington. On the flip side, Bellows Spring, Deep Run, and Ducketts Lane will see the most since they're the most crowded. Lets look at the maps for a closer look.
Here's ES#42

Here's Bellows Spring

And then Finally, Deep Run and Ducketts Lane

Other than schools in the western region providing relief to Manor Woods, there's actually very little else to be done in this region. There will be no changes at Centennial Lane, Holliefield Station, and Northfield. When ES#44 opens in West Columbia, Centennial Lane and Northfield will play a part then. The only other redistricting needed is St. Johns Lane and Waverly. Waverly is having a large addition built as we speak and St. Johns Lane is very crowded. ES#45 is slated to open in the new Turf Valley Development in the 2020s but it will be a replacement for West Friendship. I'm hoping that redistricting for this new school is minimal and won't involve Neighborhoods that were already redistricted in 2018.
and Manor Woods 

The Southeast is beginning to experience crowding again, I'm not proposing any redistricting in this region until 2023 when ES#43 opens. Any and all redistricting that would happen now would be redistricted yet again in 2023. I'm including Fulton as part of the southeast for the purposes of this post. The most likely site for ES#43 will be the Mission Road Site in Jessup recently purchased by the County. 
The Western part of the County is different from the rest in that its schools have space to fill. This is good because with Manor Woods being as crowded as it is, I had used West Friendship and Tridelphia Ridge to relieve it. By these two schools relieving Manor Woods, they will themselves become over-crowded. Bushy Park and Clarksville will relieve West Friendship and Tridelphia Ridge respectively. Dayton Oaks will receive students from Pointers Run which will in turn receive students from Clemens Crossing. No changes will be made to Lisbon or Fulton.
now Dayton Oaks and Pointers Run

This concludes the Elementary School portion of my plan for the 2018 school year. I tried my best to minimize redistricting and maximize capacities in the northeast and western regions of the County. Since more schools are needed in the other regions, I'm waiting to delve into redistricting those areas until those new schools open so as not to redistrict the same Neighborhoods twice. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Rules of Redistricting

If you've seen the latest proposals for next year's redistricting, you'll know that it's all over the place, unnecessarily redistricts far more students, doesn't take into account that these same Neighborhoods will be redistricted again when new schools in the area are built, and sends kids to schools that are much further away than their current one. In some cases it forces current walkers to be bused to a far away school. In order to make sense out of this, some rules and semblance of common sense needs to be established. This post will do just that.
You can't simply solve over-crowding in foul swoop. There's only one new School opening in 2018 which is ES#42 in the northeast. It is true that there are other areas in the County that are over-crowded as well as over-crowded middle and high schools. By doing a grandiose County wide plan, the Schools may be balanced for a year or two but over-crowding will resume in no time at all at the cost of severing communities.

Luckily, there are plans to open additional schools in the coming years which will address over-crowding such as ES#43 in the southeast, ES#44 in West Columbia(new Faulkner Ridge ES), ES#45 (West Friendship replacement school in Turf Valley) HS#13 in Elkridge or Jessup, MS#21 in the northeast or southeast, and a Talbott Springs replacement school. Since none of these additional schools are opening in 2018, so redistrict those areas WHEN those new or replacement schools DO open.
Also, there's no need to empty out and refill an already balanced or slightly under or over crowded school. Take Oakland Mills HS, it can absorb another 100-200 students. All one would need to do is add 100-200 students from a nearby crowded school to Oakland Mills. Yet, what's being proposed is taking long standing areas of the Oakland Mills community and up-rooting them to other schools. Then Oakland Mills is slated to be completely re-populated with far away communities along the Route 1 Corridor which will over-crowd Oakland Mills in a few short years. Similar proposals are slated for Wilde Lake HS and Atholton HS. With these schools, less is more.
Don't touch a School that may balance itself out shortly. Take Marriotts Ridge, it's under-crowded right now but with some many newer communities and crowded Elementary in Middle Schools in its District, it's going to fill itself up. Redistricting other communities into it is very short sighted. The Communities slated to be redistricted there are much closer than the schools they're in now for the most part. I agree Neighboring Schools like Centennial and Mount Hebron are very crowded and will continue to be so. However, Centennial is slated for a renovation that may up its capacity. And/or the Centennial/Mount Hebron area may/should be the location for HS#14. Preferably in the Worthington area so that it's not close to other Schools.
Speaking of close to other schools, Howard County is terrible at picking out school sites. The proposed site for HS#13 isn't any better. There's a site in Elkridge at Montgomery Road and Landing Road that is closer to the growth. Redistricting to fill in Jessup will continue the trend of breaking up Neighborhoods and even fewer people not going to their Neighborhood School. If you look at the location of high schools, you will see that they're clumped to together. Reservoir, River Hill, Atholton, Wilde Lake, and Hammond are all a stones throw from each other and then most of their districts reach far out into areas with no high school like North Laurel. Howard and Long Reach are like this too. If you're within walking distance to one, you're within walking distance to the other. Both schools then reach a long arm and bus Elkridge into their schools. The Landing road site for HS#13 will give Elkridge its own High School with many walkers. The Mission Road site will not. It will however make a good site for another Elementary and Middle School in future years.
Our last redistricting rule has less to do with redistricting and more to do with capital improvement projects and school equity. It more has to do with not over funding one school and under funding another one. Take the proposed addition to Ellicott Mills Middle. This is already a newer School that uses the current Middle School Prototype. Neighboring Oakland Mills Middle. There's a capital improvement project for a renovation of this school. Oakland Mills Middle is not a prototype school and it is a much smaller building. In the name of school equity, I propose leaving Ellicott Mills as is, transferring those to the Oakland Mills project, and upgrading the Oakland Mills project to a replacement School using the current Middle School prototype. Appropriate redistricting will follow once this replacement Oakland Mills opens.
Although Howard County is beginning to see this way, they must look at future renovation projects of older schools are replacement schools. First, doing so helps create a better school equity balance and second, these replacement schools will be larger than their current predecessors and can relieve crowding with less redistricting. In addition to Oakland Mills MS, I ask that replacement schools be considered in the following renovations; Dunloggin MS, Patapsco MS, Jeffers Hill ES, Harpers Choice MS, Atholton ES, and either Bryant Woods and/or Running Brook ES. ES#45 will be a replacement for West Friendship ES. ES#44 in Faulkner Ridge can act as swing space if needed as well.
If you've seen the latest redistricting proposals, you will know just how out there it is and that it moves too many students without warrant and these same Neighborhoods will get redistricted again  as more new schools open and the short sighted redistricting will over-crowd the schools in a short years yet again. But if we simply follow these rules of redistricting, we can minimize the number of impacted students and gradually reduce crowding in Howard County.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mall Master Plan I: The Lord & Taylor Plaza

Back in 2012 I wrote a post suggesting that the Mall should demolish and re-open Lord and Taylor to make a second Lifestyle Plaza directly across from what was then, the soon to be opened outdoor Plaza that replaced LL Bean. I love that idea but I'm afraid it isn't that practical but I still want to create a similar outdoor plaza on the other side of the Mall to bring life to what I consider to be the Mall's Outback.
The Mall parking lot, in the instance of the other four Department Stores, is very accessible to them. With Lord and Taylor, the opposite is true. There are parking decks that lead into the store itself and that side of the Mall but how does one get there from say; the Lakefront? When looking at Lord and Taylor from Little Patuxent Parkway, there are no connecting sidewalks, no pathways, or no exterior connecting roads that welcomes you to Lord and Taylor. Or the Mall in general for that matter. The only way to get there is to walk down Little Patuxent Parkway to find the J.C. Penney entrance or the Macy's entrance. Or you could walk through the grass on the steep hill to Lord and Taylor or the adjacent Mall Entrance and risk injury. 
That other Mall Entrance near Lord and Taylor has been mostly forgotten. While Bun Penney was still open and Lord and Taylor had yet to be built, that was a different story. When looking at the area, you can see why. Although I like trees, the trees at this entrance make it seem unwelcoming and in the way. There's also no real connection to the lone Merrill Lynch building. When comparing this to the newly opened plaza on the other side of Mall, it feels like two completely different places.
So what does this Mall Entrance have going for it? A great line of sight. Well, if you get rid of the trees all over it you will. That line of sight makes a straight shot into Wincopin Circle which of course leads right to the Lakefront. I would also like to point out that Wincopin Circle is in the midst of large scale redevelopment currently. A long vacant plat of land is getting a mixed use high rise, the American City Building will be redeveloped as a similar concept, and most likely there will be redevelopment of the parking deck where the vacant Copeland's was. This will no doubt bring life to Little Patuxent Parkway across from Lord and Taylor. But will it make a connection to the Mall?
This is where the Lord and Taylor Plaza will be built. The redevelopment on Wincopin Circle, the rebirth of the lakefront, and the integration of the Merrill Lynch building and connecting the Mall to all of it shows how crucial it is to all Downtown. The Plaza will extend outdoors from the current Mall Entrance just like the current Plaza does. It will connect to the Merrill Lynch building on one side and it will extend to Little Patuxent Parkway and Wincopin Circle with shops on either side that are a mix of those already in the Mall and newcomers to Columbia.
The side of the Plaza that Lord and Taylor is on will be more difficult to build additional shops. Lord and Taylor impedes on that area so either Lord and Taylor will have to expand towards Macy's to reclaim that square footage, or they would have a smaller first floor. Department Stores (especially Sears lately) have been shrinking the size of their stores lately so Lord and Taylor doing so for the construction of the plaza wouldn't be out of the question.
The Retail spaces in the plaza would be for larger size stores (like Pottery Barn) that can't find space in the mall since the few vacant store fronts in the Mall are very small. Like the existing plaza, it will have large Restaurants at the end welcoming you into the plaza. The Restaurants I would put is California Pizza Kitchen and Phillips Seafood. The plaza walk way would extend to Wincopin Circle where a traffic signal and pedestrian signal will cross Little Patuxent Parkway. That same stretch of Little Patuxent Parkway will gain sidewalks as well.
Although this second plaza is a very large development plan, it is only the first of many in a series of a Master Plan for Columbia Mall to keep it competitive and a regional shopping destination for decades to come. Stay tuned for more.