Reactions To The Ellicott City Proposal – Part 1

By now you have heard about the plan to make major changes to Ellicott City…if not…here is a except of the plan (which you can read here):

…the acquisition and relocation/demolition of 10 buildings that currently constrict the stream channel will provide the most immediate and impactful benefit in reducing the life safety risk on Lower Main Street. Significant improvements to realize this vision can be taken within a year. The Ellicott City Master Plan will provide guidance on how the floodplain in this area can be terraced so that it can be transformed into a community open space that can be used for public enjoyment. This space can be one of beautiful functional design with numerous amenities for the community to enjoy while serving as life safety protection. The community will be engaged to help design this new open space. In addition, the opportunity to strategically expand the floodplain further west will also be pursued. This will include the acquisition and demolition of approximately seven residential structures in the West End, which also achieve a similar immediate benefit to the community. Collectively, the expansion of the floodplain in these strategic areas would result in the loss of less than 5 percent of the structures in the Historic District. The County will make every effort to preserve the key historical elements of these structures so that they may be re-used in the Historic District to safeguard their legacy for the years to come.

The strategy to expand the floodplain will be combined with the execution of several floodwater retention facilities that have been in process, as well as several conveyance improvements.

These include:

• Hudson 7 Retention Facility (identified in H and H Analysis): 13 acre-ft of storage in the US 29/40 Interchange

• Quaker Mill Retention Facility: 10 acre-ft of storage along Rogers Avenue

• 8600 Main Street Culvert Expansion (identified in the H and H Analysis):

Significantly increasing the capacity of the culvert. In addition to these projects, the County is continuing to evaluate the potential to construct the retention facilities described as T1 and NC3 in the H and H Analysis. These projects will now be coupled with two new elements to drastically improve conveyance of water through the town. The first is the expansion of the channel that runs under Parking Lot E to Parking Lot D. This idea was explored through the Master Plan concepts, and it will tie into the expansion of the Ellicott Mills Drive culvert as that is rebuilt. This will require the relocation or removal of two additional structures. The other project will be the addition of culverts under Maryland Avenue that will connect the Tiber-Hudson with the Patapsco River further downstream. The constriction at the B & O Railroad Bridge proves to be a continuing challenge, so the addition of an outlet further downstream will reduce the backwatering caused at that constriction. The County will need to work with its partners at CSX to perform this work, and the goal is to construct at least two 10’ diameter culverts…

Again…take a look at that document and watch the video of the press conference if you have not had a chance to do so yet.

I was looking forward to seeing some of the reactions from other organizations and candidates…so here is some of the things I have come across on social media:

Preservation Maryland: (comment on Facebook and statement on their website):

Official Statement: Preservation Maryland expresses serious concern over $50 Million demolition scheme in Ellicott City.

“Ellicott City is one of the State of Maryland’s crown jewels. What is done here will resonate for generations to come – and could, if done correctly, set a standard to which the rest of the nation strives to meet. Preservation Maryland firmly believes we must rise to meet this challenge. The future of Ellicott City depends on it.” — Nicholas A. Redding, Executive Director

Click below for our full statement. CC: National Trust for Historic PreservationHistoric Ellicott City, Inc.Ellicott City PartnershipHoward County Executive Allan H. Kittleman #preservemd #smartgrowth

 

Preservation Maryland Statement on Ellicott City Demolition Proposal

08/23/2018
BY PRESERVATION MARYLAND

Preservation Maryland, the statewide non-profit preservation advocacy organization, issued the following statement today in response to Howard County’s $50 million proposed demolition plan for Ellicott City:

PRESERVATION MARYLAND EXPRESSES SERIOUS CONCERN OVER $50 MILLION DEMOLITION SCHEME

In the wake of devastating flash floods, the future of Ellicott City’s historic district and flood prone buildings has been widely and openly debated. On Thursday, August 23rd, Howard County Government announced their intention to demolish a staggering 5% of the historic district in an attempt to mitigate the ongoing flood risks facing the historic community.

Preservation Maryland fully supports efforts to protect the lives of those who live in and visit Ellicott City. Proven stormwater management tools and scientifically driven hydrologic retention efforts should be employed to reverse the damaging manmade impacts now causing these events. Demolition of historic buildings, is not, however, a proven strategy nor has it been adequately studied in Ellicott City to understand its hydrological impact. Furthermore, this plan, developed without substantive public input, could result in the de-listing of Ellicott City from the National Register of Historic Places which would curtail certain incentives and tax credits available for the historic community.

Perhaps most concerning is that this $50 million demolition plan does not appear to substantively mitigate or resolve flood risks. At the same time, by removing large portions of the built environment, new flood patterns could arise and potentially cause extensive damage to the National Historic Landmark B&O Railroad station which would sit in an even more vulnerable location. Additionally, Preservation Maryland is interested to learn more about the county’s decision making process in this planning effort and the extent to which other resources and structures were reviewed for demolition — and whether impervious surfaces, undeveloped land and existing structures above the historic town were considered as a part of the county’s review.

Preservation Maryland is currently considering all options and intends on distributing a white paper next week which explores viable alternatives to widescale demolition in the historic district. Ellicott City is one of the State of Maryland’s crown jewels. What is done here will resonate for generations to come – and could, if done correctly, set a standard to which the rest of the nation strives to meet. Preservation Maryland firmly believes we must rise to meet this challenge. The future of Ellicott City depends on it.

Calvin Ball (Howard County Council District 2 and candidate for Howard County Executive): (via Facebook)

As a follow-up to my letter to the County Executive and his subsequent press conference that was held yesterday, I wanted to share an update. By now, you have likely heard about the plans to purchase and demolish between 10-19 buildings in Historic Ellicott City. Many of you have reached out, whether to myself or other community leaders to express your concerns. My office has requested more details about the projects that will be included and we are awaiting additional information. However, I have been assured that there will be an opportunity for the community to have a voice during this process. This includes the legislation that will be prefiled today by Jon Weinstein requesting additional funding for certain projects, the details of which my office has requested from him and is still waiting to receive.

While there are still many uncertainties, of which I hope will be flushed out soon, I can tell you this. Like Preservation Maryland, I have reservations about the County Executive’s proposal and have yet to see a study that accurately correlates how demolition of our historic buildings will appropriately mitigate flooding and fully address life safety issues. In fact, as Preservation Maryland noted, we must be cautious and diligent in our approach forward as demolitions of buildings in the historic district could jeopardize Ellicott City’s standing and lead to it being removed from the National Register of Historic Places. If that happened, much of the progress we had been able to accomplish through tax credits and other incentives would no longer be available.

Furthermore, we must recognize that this Council is now comprised of five lame duck Councilmembers and it would be most prudent to let the voters discuss this issue among the candidates for office and delay the vote on what could be a $50 million five year plan until after the General Election, fewer than 80 days away. I believe this is the right course of action.

The past two floods were devastating. Both with the loss of life and impact to our businesses and residents. We should ensure we have a viable, responsible plan that is scientifically and technologically driven which will resolve this important issue especially given the fiscal impact it will have to our taxpayers and ultimately on our overall budget.

I will do my best to keep you informed and encourage you to stay engaged. I am hopeful in any path forward and grateful that you will remain an integral part of creating a vibrant and re-energized Ellicott City.

http://www.preservationmaryland.org/preservation-maryland-…/

Allan Kittleman (Howard County Executive) response to Preservation Maryland (via Facebook):

Thanks to Jon Weinstein – Howard County Council for joining me in this statement in response to Preservation Maryland‘s comments about our five-year flood mitigation strategy for Ellicott City:

We are disappointed that Preservation Maryland is using this five-year plan as an opportunity to advance its own special interest agenda. For them to use the word “scheme” in describing this plan is simply an irresponsible characterization, especially since it released the statement before it even reviewed the written plan.

While we respect the group’s mission, our primary mission is to preserve life safety for the residents, businesses, and visitors to Ellicott City.

Of the 10 buildings on the lower end of Main Street that have been identified for acquisition and removal, not all were historic. In fact, one is less than 20 years old, having been rebuilt following a multi-alarm fire. Some of the buildings have been so heavily damaged in this and previous floods that very little of a historic nature remains. These buildings are privately owned, and some are beyond repair, be it physical and/or financially feasible. The majority of owners indicated they were unable or unwilling to make any additional investment in their properties.

We agree that scientific-driven “hydrologic retention efforts” should be employed, and this plan does just that. It is based on a comprehensive hydrology and hydraulic study conducted following the 2016 flood, which provides us with the most complete, comprehensive and accurate science available.

We welcome the thoughts of not just Preservation Maryland but many stakeholders. Our Master Plan process included numerous opportunities for public input, as will the continuation of that process, which resumes in September. We hope they will take advantage of these opportunities.

According to Jim Gabbert, a historian at the National Register of Historic Places who reviews sites in Maryland, the National Register does not take places off its list unless someone requests them to be removed. We would find it regrettable if anyone would make such a request since this plan’s very core is designed to prevent future loss of life while simultaneously preserving the town’s historic heritage and ensuring its future.

There is a significant difference between secrecy and privacy and since these conversations occurred with private property owners, we wanted to conduct them in a way that allowed them to make the best decisions regarding their lives, families and futures. In fact, at his field hearing in Ellicott City on August 20, Senator Cardin complimented the county on its ongoing transparency, openness, and opportunity for public input.

Preservation Maryland’s assertion that the plan “does not appear to substantively mitigate or resolve flood risks” is blatantly false. In future events, in addition to lessening the amount of water on Main Street, the destructive velocity of the water will be reduced by 60 percent. The flood mitigation plan removes 5 percent of the total number of buildings in the historic district Main Street.

We wish that removing any building was not necessary, but nothing is more important to us than ensuring the town remains safe and viable.

We are dedicated to saving Ellicott City by balancing the preservation of its history with the saving of lives. This plan does that.

Ellicott City Partnership (via Facebook):

Aware of the importance of the county’s recent proposal, the ECP stands committed to working with our government partners and constituents as we build a stronger, smarter and safer future for Main St and beyond. Thank you Jon Weinstein – Howard County Council and Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman for your continued support of Old Ellicott City.

(They shared the video of the press conference with this post)

I am torn on where I am with the plan…on the one hand I see how bad the past two floods were for Ellicott City…and I look at this photo…

and think…flooding is not a new thing for Ellicott City and major changes are absolutely necessary…or we WILL see flooding again and the loss of business and potentially the loss of life…we can no longer think of this as a new phenomenon and action is needed sooner rather than later.

Then there is the other side of this…the money…which is scary if you think of it in the context of what the county is doing and spending on projects like downtown Columbia, the plan for Gateway Drive, a school system that is always in need of more funds and in need of more schools and a court house plan that has a hefty price tag on it. This is a lot happening all at once. I am not saying that any of this should stop moving forward to fix what has been happening in Ellicott City for decades…but it is somewhat concerning when you look at everything happening at the same time. Hopefully we get some (or a lot) of federal and state money to help pay for the needed changes to Ellicott City…whatever that may end up looking like in the end.

I will have another post soon(ish) with other candidate comments on the plan…specifically ones from Howard County Council District 1 and Maryland State Delegate District 9B…and maybe some others I find interesting.

Scott E

2 thoughts on “Reactions To The Ellicott City Proposal – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Reactions To The Ellicott City Proposal – Part 2 – The Phoenix Emporium and Portalli’s | Scott E's Blog

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