Kimco’s proposal for redevelopment of the Hickory Ridge Village Center is to be considered by the Howard County Design Advisory Panel next Wednesday December 7. Like the rest of Columbia, the issue of increased urbanization at this central community hub is at the heart of controversy.
I support the plan. In the face of continued population growth, suburban sprawl and development of more and more of our natural lands are not sustainable. Higher densities in appropriate locations throughout Columbia is smart growth, will promote public transit, and will serve to improve pedestrian and bicycle amenities. Two of my previous posts about this subject are here and here.
Some residents of Hickory Ridge formed a group to support Kimco’s revised plan for redeveloping the Hickory Ridge Village Center. Their argument below is one that could easily apply to all of Columbia.
Citizens In favor of a Vibrant Village Center (CIVVC)
Many of us have attended the public meetings Kimco has held and been disturbed by both the tone and substance of the comments made by many in opposition to the plan. The level of uncertainty, fear, and worst-case scenarios has been high in these meetings.
The purpose of CIVVC, then, is to foster a rational dialogue about the merits and demerits of the Kimco plan. We hope to listen to our neighbors, and inform and educate as well.
CIVVC has no connection to Kimco: we are simply a group of concerned citizens who want a successful village center in the future and believe that the Kimco plan deserves a fair hearing.
Here’s why we think the current version of Kimco’s redevelopment plan is promising:
- We believe the key to a viable village center is the competitiveness of the anchor grocery store. Competition for grocery stores in Columbia has changed enormously in the last five years with the entrance of Whole Foods, Wegman’s, and Costco into the market. Longtime residents of Columbia have seen the decline of village centers at Wilde Lake, Long Reach, and Oakland Mills when their anchor stores became outmoded. We accept Kimco’s point that the best hope for a competitive anchor grocery store at Hickory Ridge in the future is the increased number of nearby residents in the proposed apartment building.
- Kimco has solicited input from Hickory Ridge residents and substantially improved its original redevelopment plan in response to our concerns.
- A redeveloped village center, with a greater customer base, offers the possibility for an upgraded and more varied mix of stores, a stronger pedestrian-oriented life style for both homeowners and residents of the apartments, and a safer environment.
- More compact residential development is consistent with smart growth practices that mix land uses (e.g., homes, offices, and shops), promote public transit, and improve pedestrian and bicycle amenities. Suburban sprawl and continued reliance on automobile transportation are not sustainable growth principles.
- Kimco’s plan upholds a core idea on which Columbia was founded – that of a diverse community, the notion that people of different demographics benefit from living near each other. To offer a diversity of housing that meets people’s varied interests also contributes to the economic vitality of Columbia.
- One of Howard County’s fastest growing populations is the over-65 age group. Two 55+ communities are now located near the village center. Some owners of single-family houses in Hickory Ridge have expressed interest in the possibility of some day moving into Kimco’s proposed apartments. Senior citizens will be looking close by for a good grocery store and other services in the village center.
- In regard to the concerns expressed in the public meetings – about traffic, parking spaces, school overcrowding – we believe that Howard County has well-established standards and regulations in these areas called the Adequate Public Facilities Ordnance (APFO). The APFO will make sure school capacity, road capacity, public transport, housing stock, and water and sewer systems can accommodate new and existing developments. Kimco’s plan must pass the test for adequacy of these facilities in order to be approved. If the standards are not met as Kimco’s plan proceeds through the county’s planning and zoning process, Kimco will have to modify its plan or provide for capacity of these facilities to satisfy the county’s APFO.