By Dr. Calvin Ball | Howard County Executive 

Dr. Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive

Last summer, we launched the planning process for Howard County’s next General Plan, HoCo By Design. In response to community concerns about current land use regulations, we accelerated the schedule to update the General Plan and to present it to the community this fall.

HoCo By Design will provide a roadmap for how Howard County should develop and grow in response to evolving economic, environmental and social conditions. The General Plan does not just impact how and where Howard County adds residential housing, it also has a large impact on the future of commercial hubs and business growth.

This month, Howard County residents and businesses had the opportunity to contemplate various scenarios for future growth. While the initial period for input closed April 5, the different scenarios are available on the HoCo By Design Scenario Planning webpage.

The scenarios range in jobs and housing growth, with the first, and smallest development concept adding approximately 19,000 dwelling units and 33,000 employees to the most dramatic growth scenario adding about 37,000 dwelling units and more than 61,000 employees.

In each of the scenarios, growth is focused on certain parts of Howard County.

In Columbia, the Gateway area has some of the greatest potential for residential and commercial development in the county. The scenarios range in scope of how the Gateway area could be developed, including becoming a new mixed-use activity center, with development that is less intense than Downtown Columbia with building heights reaching 5-plus stories.

The most significant proposal calls for the Gateway area to become a new regional-scale mixed-use activity center with development intensities similar to Downtown Columbia with buildings rising to 10-plus stories. Growing “up” and not “out” leaves more space for public plazas, green spaces, tree cover preservation, and other community amenities.

The decisions we make will have an impact on the county’s residential and job growth, infrastructure demands (such as transportation, recreation amenities and schools), community character, our environment and more.

The choices we make for our growth, development and preservation could result in:

· alternative modes of transportation for employees, customers and clients to access our businesses

· more walkable compact mixed-use communities

· enhanced community character that makes your business location more unique and special

· growth of the consumer and employment base

· renewed opportunities for our small and new businesses to thrive

The final growth scenario has not yet been chosen for the county, but this scenario will inform what is called a Future Land Use Map which will essentially provide a roadmap for how and where we grow for the next 20 years.

This is an exciting and important moment for Howard County to share in the future of our community. I encourage our residents and business owners to register with the HoCo By Design website to stay informed and get involved in the process.