Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Council Meetings On Demand

From HoCo Gov:

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and County Council Chairperson Mary Kay Sigaty are pleased to announce that beginning Monday, October 5, the County will officially launch new video streaming technology that will enable the public to view County Council public hearings and legislative sessions through the Internet. The Council sessions will be available either live or on demand, at the viewer’s convenience, from the “webcast” link on the County’s homepage at The first live webcast will be the Council’s Legislative Session on the 5th beginning at 7:30 pm.

“We know that more and more people are getting their news and information off the internet as opposed to through traditional media outlets, so the Internet is where we need to be. This is a giant step forward in open government and how we communicate with the public,” said Executive Ulman.

“Our citizens demand and are entitled to know when the Council is engaged in the all-important function of passing laws that impact on their welfare. Now, they can follow the ins and outs of the process,” said Council Chairperson Sigaty.

The new on-line service is powered by San Francisco-based Granicus, Inc., the premier provider of government webcasting and public meeting management solutions to over 500 government agencies spanning 45 states across the nation. The Granicus solution includes streaming software to capture, manage, store and distribute online video recordings. In the future, the county plans to offer videos of different county events and other public meetings available through the video streaming technology.

On Thursday, October 8, the Howard County Board of Education will also begin using the same technology to broadcast their public sessions on-line, live and on-demand. To access those meetings, visit the school system’s website at

The funds to purchase this new technology were provided by Ellicott City Cable Company through a cable franchise agreement signed with Howard County earlier this year.

No Rush For Speed Cameras

On Thursday, a new state law goes into effect authoritizing wider use of speed cameras across the state, but few communities, including Howard have approved programs yet, according to WaPo.

Howard County has set aside money for a speed camera program but has yet to approve its use. Police in Baltimore and Frederick have begun collecting the documentation required before a council vote. Anne Arundel County has no immediate plans for the cameras, although Annapolis is considering their use.

WaPo paired its update with a second story looking at the experience of one speed camera near Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville.

Two years ago, when Camera #2091 was installed, there were about 75 Kodak moments a day in this spot. This Monday: 16. The sharp decline leaves little doubt that drivers slow down on this stretch of road, as they tend to most anywhere a speed camera is mounted. But important questions linger: How much revenue do cameras like this generate and where does it all go? Do drivers revert to form and floor it after gliding gently by the camera? Are roads safer because of speed cameras?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Symphony Woods 2.0

HoCoMoJo has produced a nice YouTube report on possible plans for Symphony Woods.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Elkhorn To Finally Get A Cleaning

We don't know about you, but we are very excited about plans for "material de-watering."

From CA:

The Columbia Association (CA) has awarded a contract to Mobile Dredging and Pumping Co., of Chester, PA, for the dredging of Lake Elkhorn. The proposed dredging plan follows the permitted plan and requires no amendments to the permits obtained for this project.

The Lake Elkhorn dredging project has been in the planning and development stages for several years. CA solicited the input of residents, Board members and other stakeholders to develop a plan that responds to community, environmental and traffic concerns, and presents a responsible approach to accomplishing the dredging within budget.

After canceling the first request for proposal, re-issuance of the request for proposals for Lake Elkhorn dredging was released on July 22, 2009. Proposals were due on August 18, 2009 and CA received four proposals. A five-person, multidisciplinary evaluation team was established and the proposals were evaluated.

Mobile Dredging and Pumping Co. had the highest rated proposal which was satisfactory in all terms of methodology, performance time and cost, and met all of the minimum requirements of the request for proposal.

Construction of the staging area, which is located at the parking area accessed by Broken Land Parkway and adjacent grassy area, is scheduled to begin early October 2009. Active dredging and material de-watering is scheduled to occur from November 2009 and continue into the fall of 2010. This includes the hydraulic dredging of approximately 52,000 cubic yards of accumulated sediment from the forebay pond, main lake and the tail water pond. At the staging area, the hydraulically dredged material will be de-watered and hauled by truck to off-site locations for disposal.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Free Yard Waste Recycling Bags

Another useful tip from Town Center: HoCo is trying to encourage people to use paper bags to dispose of grass clippings, leaves and such, giving away two per family. (Not many for a typical yard but it's the thought the counts) While supplies last.

Visit the Recycling Division at 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Suite 514 or the Alpha Ridge Landfill at 2350 Marriottsville Road, Marriottsville, for free paper yardwaste bags.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bye-Bye Bailey Banks & Biddle

Mrs. Talk is not going to be happy about this development. Both of Mr. Talk's favorite jewelry emporiums have now become casualties of the downturn.

Oh well, there's always flowers.

From the Wash Business Journal:

Bailey Banks & Biddle jewelry stores are targeted for shut down as part of the bankruptcy that has claimed jewelry chain Finlay Enterprises Inc.

There are five stores in the D.C. area at Westfield Montgomery, Tysons Corner Center and The Fashion Center at Pentagon City, Fair Oaks and The Mall in Columbia.

Finlay filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Aug. 5.

According to Bloomberg and the jewelry trade publication National Jeweler, liquidation firm Gordon Bros. Retail Partners LLC emerged as the highest bidder in Wednesday's auction for the assets of Finlay Enterprises (OTC BB: FNLY). National Jeweler says "Gordon Bros. entered an 85.75 percent equity bid on asset inventory, estimated at $116 million on the closing date, for the company's 49 "ongoing" stores. This means that Gordon Bros. is guaranteeing that store-closing sales will generate at least 85.75 percent of the aggregate cost value of the merchandise."

No Free Ride On ICC

If it's not soaring gas prices, it's something else. WaPo warned of big tolls ahead for those of us who hoped to take advantage of Montgomery County's east-west Intercounty Connector now under construction.

By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Drivers using the Intercounty Connector could pay toll rates of up to 35 cents per mile during peak commuting times, amounting to a maximum toll of $2.35 for the projected average trip on the new highway in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, according to a state proposal released Wednesday.

Those who drive the entire 18.8 miles of the six-lane highway between Gaithersburg and Laurel would pay up to $6.15 during peak times -- from 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. -- according to the plan issued by the board of the Maryland Transportation Authority, which will operate the ICC.

Tolls for two-axle vehicles would vary from 20 cents to 35 cents a mile, depending on the time of day. Those driving outside peak commute times would pay up to $2 to travel the projected average of six miles and as much as $5.30 for the entire route.

Larger trucks and tractor-trailers, which are projected to make up about 7 percent of all ICC traffic, would pay 60 cents to $2.63 a mile, depending on the time of day. A five-axle truck would pay a maximum toll of $36.85 to drive the entire highway during peak times.

The ICC will be the first toll road in Maryland to collect all fees electronically at regular highway speeds and the first to vary charges by the time of day, state officials said. It will have no tollbooths. Officials said they expect 95 percent of ICC users will be charged via electronic E-ZPass transponders. Vehicles without an E-ZPass will be photographed, and their owners will be mailed a bill for the toll plus a $3 surcharge.

Montgomery County Council President Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), a longtime ICC opponent, said he thinks that his constituents will be shocked at the proposed toll rates. Those who commute between interstates 370 and 95 -- an estimated one-quarter of all ICC users, according to the state's analysis -- could be charged up to $11.20 round-trip daily. That could amount to more than $2,400 a year, he said.

"For many workers, that would be unaffordable," Andrews said. "These tolls are so high they would create an exclusionary road for people whose taxes were used to pay for it."

Louis Campion, a spokesman for the state's trucking industry, said many truck drivers would welcome the option of paying a toll to avoid the Capital Beltway, which many prefer to smaller local roads.

"The Beltway provides the safest alternative for truck traffic, but the congestion is dramatic," said Campion, senior vice president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association. "The ICC will provide a safe alternative" to the Beltway.

The proposed toll range is now subject to a 60-day public comment period. The authority's board is scheduled to vote on a final plan Dec. 17.

The east-west highway, which is estimated to cost $2.56 billion to build, is expected to fully open between the Interstate 270 and Route 1 corridors in spring 2012. The first 7.2-mile segment, between I-270 and Georgia Avenue, is scheduled to open next fall.

Although some toll rates on other highways throughout the country can change from minute to minute to keep traffic free-flowing by raising prices during congested periods, for example if backups occur from a crash, the ICC toll rates will not have that flexibility.

If the highway becomes too crowded, Maryland officials said, they would increase the toll rates within the approved range. However, they said, they would issue a 10-day notice to the public before doing so. If they decide the road has become so jammed that they need to increase rates beyond the maximum in the range, they would propose a toll range that would then go out for a new 60-day public comment period, and the board would have to approve any changes.

"We will be monitoring that very closely," said Ronald L. Freeland, the authority's executive secretary.

Freeland said the authority also will monitor whether the times for peak tolls need to be adjusted to combat commuter congestion. Electronic signs will alert drivers to the per-mile rate being charged at the time they enter the highway, he said.

Toll revenues are key to the state's federally approved financial plan to cover the highway's $2.56 billion construction costs. Of that, $1.23 billion is being financed with 30-year bonds backed by tolls collected on the ICC, Maryland's portion of I-95 and six toll bridges and tunnels throughout the state.

Public comments are being accepted until 5 p.m. Nov. 23. The state will hold two public information meetings and two public hearings on the toll proposal in October. Information is available at

Route 29 Repaving Plans

We received this from the folks in Town Center. Your stimulus dollars at work:

Highway Administration (SHA) has begun a $3.9 million project to resurface a section of southbound US 29 (Columbia Pike) between Broken Land Parkway and the bridge over Middle Patuxent River in Columbia. SHA expects to complete the project early this winter, weather permitting.

During resurfacing single-lane closures should be expected Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., nightly 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and Friday 8 p.m. to midnight. Additionally, overnight double lane closures are possible weeknights between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Friday. SHA will place barrels, cones, variable message signs, arrow boards, and temporary signs to guide motorists.

This section of US 29 has outlived its usable life carrying approximately 74,000 vehicles each day and was last resurfaced in 1996; motorists should plan for extra travel time during construction.

This project is made possible through Governor Martin O’Malley’s aggressive management of the requirements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, bringing critically needed transportation investments to Maryland. Projects such as these are stimulating Maryland’s economy by supporting hundreds of jobs. Follow the delivery of these projects at, which tracks every category of ARRA spending and provides contract-level details to the public in an effort to achieve new levels of government transparency and efficiency.

Citizens who have questions about traffic operations along US 29, or other State numbered routes in Howard County, may call SHA’s District 7 Office at 301-624-8100 or toll free at 1-800-635-5119.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Must See TV?

Here's the action-packed lineup for the government channel tonight. At a time when the only real coverage this county seems to get from local TV is for proposals to ban teen tanning beds is this really the best way to use this resource? Even the rebroadcast of the legislative session has to be at the most inconvenient time possible for much of working Howard.

Surely in this day and age there is more compelling content. How about the Symphony Woods meetings? Or the flu town hall? Or high school football games? Geez, we'd even settle for video of the tanning bed presser.

We're guessing a single enterprising intern could curate video from YouTube, local TV, HoCoMoJo and such and come up with more interesting fare than this.

Thursday, September 24
12:00 mid Classic Arts Showcase
8:00 AM Corinth Classic Comedy
9:00 NASA TV
9:30 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
10:00 Sharing Miracles
10:30 Health Maryland
11:00 Army Newswatch
11:30 NASA TV
12:00 Legislative Public Hearing (rebroadcast)
1:00 Legislative Public Hearing (rebroadcast)
2:00 Legislative Public Hearing (rebroadcast)
3:00 Classic Arts Showcase
4:00 Classic Arts Showcase
4:00 MSL: Educational Forum
5:00 Out of Ireland
5:30 Travel Television
6:00 Sharing Miracles
6:30 Health Maryland
7:00 Out of Ireland
7:30 Army Newswatch
8:00 Road to Recovery
9:00 Princeton University LS
10:00 Classic Arts Showcase
11:00 Classic Arts Showcase

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Protect Those Garage Codes

Just catching up with this. From HoCo PD:

Howard County police have charged a Clarksville man for burglarizing his neighbors, and the investigation has led to the return of $25,000 worth of stolen jewelry to the victims. Police are working to identify possible additional victims.

Michael Edward Macon, 23, of 11819 Shepard’s Crossing in Clarksville, is charged with first-, third- and fourth-degree burglary and two theft charges. He was released Thursday on a $25,000 unsecured bond from Howard County Detention Center.

On Sept. 13, police responded to the 11800 block of Shepard’s Crossing in Clarksville for a burglary. The victims had been on vacation and returned home to find approximately $30,000 worth of jewelry missing. There were no signs of forced entry.

Through an investigative lead, investigators discovered high-end jewelry matching the description from the victims that Macon had pawned in Laurel and Prince George’s County. Police are continuing to try to locate the remaining $5,000 of stolen jewelry.

Police believe Macon may have known the code to enter the victims’ garage, then entered the home.

Additional charges are pending further investigation and the possible identification of other victims.

Monday, September 21, 2009

And It's All Yours For $99.9M

From the public schools:

$99.9M Sought for School Facilities Needs

The Board of Education got its first look at the Superintendent's proposed Capital Budget for fiscal year 2011 at the September 10 Board meeting. The $99.9M proposal includes a 100-seat addition to Bellows Spring Elementary, dance studio additions to Centennial and Hammond high schools, and a comprehensive renovation of Atholton High School. Other projects include a Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) treatment facility for Triadelphia Ridge Elementary and Folly Quarter Middle, and a new 443-seat Northeastern Elementary School scheduled to open in August 2013.

FY11 funding is sought for several systemic projects as well, including a renovation/addition to the central administration building and renovations at Hammond Elementary/Middle, and Stevens Forest, Thunder Hill, Bollman Bridge, Longfellow, and Phelps Luck elementary schools.

The Board will hold a public hearing and work session on the capital budget at 7:30 pm on Thursday, September 24, before giving preliminary approval to the proposal.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No Tan For You

HoCo Exec Ken Ulman and his ever-creative Health Officer Peter Beilenson are proposing to ban teens from using tanning beds, according to a number of reports (here's a link to ExploreHoward).

The two plan a press conference Tuesday.

Brittany Lietz, a former Miss Maryland who believes her battle with skin cancer was caused by indoor tanning, also will speak at the event.

If the regulations are adopted, Howard County would become one of the first communities in the country to ban the use of the beds by minors.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Food, Water, Art: What More Do You Want?

The Flier has an account of the Columbia Association's presentation on what to do with Symphony Woods.

Under a plan presented Wednesday by association planners, a fountain-type water display and a small cafĂ© surrounded by paved pathways would help transform the area into Symphony Woods Park. The woods’ dense canopy would be thinned in certain areas to provide for “pockets” of sunlight, according to planners.

The park also would have a more visible entry plaza off Little Patuxent Parkway, a woodland garden with crushed stone pathways, a children’s play area with sculptures, restrooms and a 150-space parking lot, according to plans presented by designers Cy Paumier and John Slater at a community meeting Wednesday night at Slayton House in Wilde Lake.

“It’s the magnet that brings the people.You’ve got the food; you’ve got the water; you’ve got the play equipment; you’ve got the art. This place comes alive and it will really be exciting,” Slater said. “It really is a marketing tool for the town and it’s a beautiful way to bring people in.”

Ravens Say Hi

Not the players apparently, but the supporting cast. We pass this on as a public service; we lean towards the Redskins in the great Ravens-Redskins divide.

At the mall:

Presented by M&T Bank, The Mall in Columbia will host a Baltimore Ravens Pep Rally on Friday, September 18 from 12noon-2pm. Visit the Nordstrom Court on the lower level to join in on the fun!

Poe, the official mascot of the Baltimore Ravens, as well as the Ravens Cheerleaders will be in attendance.

# Meet Stash, the afternoon DJ of 98Rock
# Register to win prizes
# Pose for pictures with Poe and the Ravens Cheerleaders

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stabbing Was No Gang Rite

The Columbia Flier reports that the man who stabbed the jogger in Running Brook last spring has pleaded guilty to second degree assault.

Police caught up with Vernon Leroy Costley, 19, after his godmother alerted police that he and his knife had showed up at her doorstep.

There's always been a bit of a mystery about why someone would run up to a complete stranger and stab him.

During an Aug. 21 hearing, a police detective theorized in a video that the stabbing was a gang initiation rite. But that theory was refuted in a statement agreed upon by both prosecution and defense attorneys, and read by [Judge Lenore] Gelfman Tuesday.

Costley, a Wilde Lake High School graduate, told police that he was hanging out on the night of the stabbing with a male identified only as “Skino.” At one point, Skino yelled to Costley, “That’s the guy from the bar the other day. Grab him.”

Costley, who had been drinking alcohol, then approached the man from behind and stabbed him, according to the statement. The wound required one stitch.

State sentencing guidelines called for a two-year sentence.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Locked Out

We're blessed to live near our neighborhood high school. It is one of the reasons we chose to be move where we did. The first day we toured the house, the windows were open and we could hear the thonk of racket on ball at the tennis courts. Sold! Over the years, the school has been a refuge of sorts, a place to let the dog run, kick the ball, work on our serve, or take some grounders.

But more recently, the signs prohibiting this activity or that have been multiplying. The message seems to be "Keep Out." This weekend we discovered a new bit of fence and the baseball and field hockey fields completely locked up.

We fear what's next.

Is this really the way to encourage physical activity?

Does anyone remember when, in Columbia, we used to discourage fences?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back To School Facts

By now, the kids are mostly settled into their classroom routines and the parents have survived the annual form-filling-out rituals and Back to School night. We thought we'd pass along this summary of the new year issued by the public schools:

On Tuesday morning, August 25, 4563 teachers will arrive at 72 public schools across Howard County. Howard County will have hired approximately 200 new teachers for the 2009-2010 academic year when all positions are filled. Thirty-six were hired to fill new positions; the rest fill vacancies created by resignations or retirements. Nearly 25 percent of the new hires are HCPSS graduates who have chosen to return to Howard County to teach.

The average age of Howard County's teachers is 41. Sixty-one percent hold a master's degree or above. The average teacher has 12.4 years of teaching experience.

The school year begins for Howard County students on Monday, August 31. The school system expects an enrollment of 49,138 students for the coming year, an increase of 250 students since last August. The Howard County Public School System has an operating budget of $656,694,110 and will spend $13,320 per pupil this academic year.

During the 10-week summer break, the school system's Office of School Construction completed renovation and addition projects at Glenelg High School and Elkridge, Clemens Crossing, and Waterloo elementary schools. This summer also marked the completion of the final phase of building related to full-day kindergarten. Over the past six years the system added 57 classrooms to accommodate the program. This summer, additions were completed at Bellows Spring, Deep Run, Forest Ridge, Hollifield Station and St. John's Lane elementary schools. All the projects will be completed by the first day of school.

Work also began this summer on the final phase of renovations at Clarksville Middle School and the system's first "green" renovation and addition project at Northfield Elementary School. A major renovation and addition project at Mt. Hebron High School got off to a strong start this summer as well.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Not Enough Flu Mist

From a Clemens Crossing e-mail to parents:

We found out today that the Howard County Health Department's does not have a sufficient supply of Flu Mist vaccine to provide the spray at all elementary schools on September 22nd and 24th. Therefore, the Flu Mist program at Clemens Crossing has been delayed and permission slips will not be coming home this week.

At this point we anticipate being able to offer the Flu Mist at some point later this fall. However, I have no specific details about when this will happen. As soon as we have more concrete information about future plans, I will share them with you.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Off To College

Our dead tree version of the Flier had a nice little write-up on the college plans of HoCo high school graduates (we wished we could provide a link but it doesn't appear the story and charts were posted anywhere we could find them).

Nearly 89 percent of grads told the school system they planned to continue their education, and the top destination systemwide was HoCo Community College, followed by UMd College Park, UMd Baltimore County, Towson, and Salisbury. (In fact, 40 percent of all grads said they were staying in state).

Just 65 of the system's 3,720 graduates reported that they were headed to Ivy League schools, according to the story. Thirteen of those were from Wilde Lake; Centennial and River Hill sent 10 each.

Three schools accounted for half the Ivy Leaguers.

Of course, the state of the economy surely played a role in many college-going decisions. We know of an Ivy League-caliber student or two who passed up the chance because of finances this year. The academic standing of Maryland schools has improved in recent years, as has HCC's efforts to link its two-year program with four-year degree opportunities at other institutions. But it would be interesting to know how this year's survey compares to past years.

The only hint comes from Karen Kawahara, a resource counselor for the HoCo system, who is quoted in the story as saying: "There is a feeling that increasingly more students are choosing in-state schools."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Talks Continue On Casino At Arundel Mills

WaPo offers an update on talks to bring 4,750 slot machines to Arundel Mills Mall. Apparently, some neighbors are not too happy with the idea and told a state commission so during a hearing on whether to grant the developer a gambling license.

The commission members got a first taste of opposition as they gathered in the mall for a presentation. Philip Van der Vossen, a nearby homeowner, asked, "If there were a casino here, would you like to buy my house?"

Former HoCo Exec Steps Down In Carroll

Our good friend (and former HoCo exec) Chuck Ecker is calling it quits as school superintendent in Carroll County, according to this Carroll County Times report. He's retiring after quite a run in public service.

Ecker, 80, is in the final school year of his second term as superintendent. He became superintendent in 2002, after serving two years as interim superintendent.

Prior to running Carroll schools, Ecker worked in Prince George’s and Howard county schools. He was also county executive for Howard County for eight years. In 1998, he was defeated by Ellen Sauerbrey in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Years ago, he got his start in education as physical education teacher for Carroll County.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Town Hall Meeting On The Flu

We saw this on various listservs. The county is hosting a town meeting at 7 p. on Sept 14 in River Hill's Ten Oaks Ballroom to talk about the flu. WaPo has a piece on the latest CDC guidance on who should get antivirual drugs should symptoms appear (basically, those who might be most vulnerable; the rest of us are on our own).

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and Dr. Peter Beilenson, Howard County’s Health Officer, will hold a town hall meeting to provide the public with the most up-to-date information about seasonal flu and H1N1 (commonly called “Swine Flu”). Dr. Beilenson will talk about the County’s plan to protect the public, explain the difference between the seasonal flu and H1N1, talk about who should be inoculated, and how to curb the spread of the virus. Representatives from the Howard County School System, Howard County General Hospital, Howard Community College, and the County’s Office of Emergency Management will be available following Dr. Beilenson’s presentation to answer questions.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Food Lion Is Watching Us

The Columbia Talk team loves a bargain. When we go grocery shopping, we employ every discount strategy available to us. We clip coupons. We hunt sales. We use our frequent shopper cards -- religiously.

A few weeks ago, while checking out at Food Lion, the clerk ask us if we were participating in the store's latest promotion, a chance for free cookware. Being in a hurry, and a little suspicious of promotions, we politely declined.

But then we looked into the deal. For every so many dollars spent we could earn little stickers, like the Green Stamps of old, and eventually have enough for a new frying pan.

Who doesn't like something for "free."

So we went back to the store with our receipt and asked if, ummm, we could get stamps for the past purchase.

The manager studied our receipt for a moment and then asked us to wait while she went into the back office. Several minutes later she emerged and said, well, she had checked her videotape (remember this was a good week earlier) and it was clear that we had declined the offer at the time.

"But if you want the stamps, I can give them to you."

And she did.

Which was decent of her and all, if a little creepy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thank You Readers

Who said blogs are passé? We just recorded our best week ever. Thanks to you.

Friday, September 4, 2009

River Hill Warns Of Break-ins

From a village association alert to residents; good advice for all. We had a couple kids try something similar in our neighborhood in Stevens Forest:

There have been a number of break-ins in the Village of River Hill in recent weeks. The perpetrators are gaining access through the rear of homes and stealing valuables, including TVs, laptops, and jewelry. In some instances there was forced entry. In one incident a ladder was used to gain access to an unsecured door. The police have not identified any suspects and patrols have been increased.

Please, as always, be extra vigilant. The Howard County Police Department advises residents to do the following:

* Lock all house and car doors and windows, including the door from the garage to the house;
* Keep your garage doors closed and locked;
* Be aware of suspicious persons, vehicles, and behaviors;
* Report all suspicious activity immediately

Call 911 or
Non-Emergency Number 410-313-2200

* Let a neighbor know if you be out of town, so that someone can keep on eye on your property.

Other steps that you can take:

* Join the River Hill Community Association’s listserv to receive timely crime alerts and other important notifications. Sign up at the Association’s website: and click on “Receive Village News by Email.”

* Make sure that your street is participating in the Neighborhood Watch Program. The Association’s goal is to have at least one Block Captain per street. This program helps deter crime by increasing citizen’s awareness, improving communications with the Association and Police Department, and encouraging residents to take measures to improve security. To find out if your street already has a Block Captain, to volunteer to be a Block Captain, or just to find out more, contact the Village Manager at

Thursday, September 3, 2009

No More Giant Cup Of Coffee

Our good (virtual) friend Wordbones over at the Tales Of Two Cities blog posted on a CNBC news report about Giant's plans to close poor performing Starbucks outlets in supermarkets. We can confirm for him that the Owen Brown kiosk is no more.

We were amused by a sign there urging the caffeine-deprived to try the Starbucks in River Hill. Before undertaking that journey, we might suggest a place on Dobbin Road.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"Out Sick" Ain't Good Enough Anymore

From an Oakland Mills High e-mail to parents:

The Howard County Health Dept is requiring all schools to track illnesses this year. Please report on the day of absence the specific symptoms your student is experiencing. For example: fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit AND cough AND/OR sore throat or gastrointestinal illness.

...If you fail to call the school about your child's absence and symptoms, depend on it -- someone from the school will be contacting you!

Village Redevelopment Rules OK'd

At long last, the HoCo Council adopts new rules for village center redevelopment. Read the Sun's take here.

The new law allows property owners at the centers to ask the county for zoning changes that would allow new uses such as large-scale housing without going through General Growth Properties, Columbia's master developer. Currently, GGP must submit any village center alterations to the county planning board, which has final approval.

The law adds more protections for residents, requiring early notification of any redevelopment plan and two community information meetings at least 30 days apart before any plan is submitted to the county. It also requires developers to provide more detail on their plans earlier in the process, a community impact statement, plus time for a community response. Final decisions on each case would come from the county zoning board, which is composed of county council members.

Now if only the economy would cooperate.

Another Plan For Symphony Woods

From the community association:

The Columbia Association (CA) will present its concept plans for the development of Symphony Woods Park on Wednesday, September 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Slayton House. Designers Cy Paumier and John Slater will be there to answer questions and gather feedback from residents on CA’s vision for Symphony Woods. Paumier and Slater were involved in the early planning of Columbia.

Late last year, CA reviewed plans for Symphony Woods presented by General Growth Properties (GGP) as part of their submittal for the General Plan Amendment. After review, the CA Board chose to work with independent landscape architects and land planners to study options for Symphony Woods. The goal for this plan is to develop the site into an attractive setting for public recreation and community events while protecting and enhancing the site’s natural features.

This meeting will be followed by a walking tour of the concept plans on Saturday, September 26 from 10:30 a.m. to noon in Symphony Woods. Further information on this meeting is forthcoming.

Slayton House is located at 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Columbia.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Coming to the Mall

We saw this on future lineup on the mall's Web site.

# Chipotle - Now Open!
# 5 Guys Burgers & Fries - Now Open!
# Arby's - Now Open!
# Ruby Thai Kitchen - Now Open!
# Yogiberry - Opening August 2009
# Monica Jewelers - Opening Summer 2009
# Lucaya - Opening Summer 2009
# VANS - Opening Fall 2009
# LoveSac - Opening Fall 2009

Yogiberry is a frozen yogurt shop..

Monica Jewelers appears to have a shop at Marley Station.

VANS sells shoes the kids wear.

Lucaya apparently specializes in children & teen's fashions & accessories , women's Fashions, according to listings at other malls.

But our most intriguing might be LoveSac, which makes big, soft squishy furniture. Just don't call them bean bags.