Thursday, February 25, 2010

Three Teens Injured in Crash Near Atholton

From HoCo PD:

Howard County police responded to a three-vehicle collision this morning that sent two teens to the hospital. The collision occurred at approximately 7:15 a.m. at the intersection of Quarterstaff Road and Freetown Road in Columbia.

Three teenagers were traveling in a 2003 Mitsubishi Galant westbound on Quarterstaff Road to pick up a fourth teen before heading to Atholton High School. The driver attempted to cross Freetown Road when the vehicle was struck by a 2007 Mack trash truck traveling northbound. Investigators believe the driver of the Mack truck had the right of way.

As a result of the impact, the Mitsubishi crossed the southbound lane of Freetown Road and struck a 2008 Volvo V70 station wagon at a stop sign on the opposite side of Quarterstaff Road.

The rear passenger in the Mitsubishi, Seung Lee, 17, of Ellicott City, was not wearing a seat belt and was partially ejected through a rear window. Lee was taken by ambulance to Shock Trauma with non-life threatening injuries.

The front passenger in the Mitsubishi, Morgan Hill, 18, of Clarksville, was transported to Howard County General Hospital as a precaution.

The driver of the Mitsubishi, a 17-year-old from Clarksville, was not injured. He was cited at the scene for negligent driving and violating a restriction of his provisional license by allowing a passenger to ride without a seat belt. He will not be identified because he is a juvenile facing charges.

The driver of the Mack truck, a private vehicle owned by Jenn-Kans Inc., was not injured. He is identified as Kelvin Louis Williams, 30, of Baltimore.

The driver of the Volvo, Robin Holt, 34, of Owings Mills, and a 1-year-old infant in a child safety seat in the back seat, were not injured.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

General Growth x 2?

Downtown development may have two GGPs to contend with in the future. The company is proposing to split itself into two as part of its plan to emerge from bankruptcy.

GGP will continue to operate the Mall in Columbia. A newly created General Growth Opportunities will oversee the company's Columbia holdings. Canadian firm Brookfield Asset Management Inc., one of the world’s largest real estate investors and asset managers, would take a big stake in GGO.

The Sun's ExploreHoward blog quotes Gregory Hamm, vice president for master planned communities for GGP, saying the new business organization would still have to hew to the county's recently approved plan for downtown.

“What we’ve said all along with respect to the zoning and the master plan process of Columbia (is) good planning and zoning runs with the land,” he said. “So Columbia’s not going anywhere.”

The deal is still not final. It must receive bankruptcy court approval.

Snap! Towel Service To Stay

Forget the wingtip lobbyists. The really powerbrokers are those who wield white athletic towels.

CA appears likely to retain its coveted towel service at the athletic clubs, according to the Sun's ExploreHoward blog.

Towel service at Columbia Association gyms appears to be salvaged, as is a coveted community organizer in Oakland Mills, based on tentative, straw votes taken by CA board members Monday night.

Charitable giving by the association, however, likely will be cut by more than 20 percent.

Board members discussed those issues and others at a four-hour work session Feb. 22 in preparation for taking an official vote Wednesday on the nonprofit’s spending plan for the coming year.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Man Dies In House Fire

A man was found dead in a Columbia house fire early Friday, according to the Sun

As flames shot out of windows from the second floor and attic of the Victorian-style house overlooking Lake Elkhorn, two neighbors who work as police officers for the U.S. Justice Department broke first-floor windows to get inside, according to witnesses. They managed to rescue Hong's two dogs, but were forced out of the home as flames moved down the staircase from the second floor.

Firefighters put the fire out by 6:30 a.m., Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

Because there was a fatality, police and fire officials were investigating whether foul play was involved.

Friday, February 19, 2010

About Those Snow Days

From school officials...

Dear HCPSS families,

Recent historic snowfall in the region resulted in Howard County public schools being closed for eight (8) instructional days so far during the 2009-2010 school year. Last evening, the Board of Education approved the following changes to the calendar to make up the missed instructional days.

The five days designated as inclement weather makeup days on the academic calendar will be used to make up five of the eight days, making June 23 the final instructional day for the 2009-2010 school year.

The Professional Development Day scheduled for Thursday, April 22 and the Professional Work Day for Articulation scheduled for Friday, May 14 will be used as instructional days to make up the sixth and seventh days. The Superintendent will apply for a waiver of the eighth day and any subsequent days that may need to be used for inclement weather during this school year.

Additionally, formal Parent Teacher Conferences, originally scheduled for February 10, 11, and 12, will not be rescheduled. Parents who have concerns about their child's progress are asked to contact the individual teacher to make arrangements to discuss their concerns. Teachers are asked to provide opportunities for parents to discuss concerns through phone calls and individual meetings.

The third quarter marking period has been extended from April 1 to April 23, with Interim Reports issued on March 19 instead of March 5, and report cards issued on May 5. The Board voted to change April 1 from an early dismissal day to a full instructional day. The fourth quarter marking period will now begin on April 26, with interim reports issued on May 26. Summer school begins on June 28.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hammond Closes Early As Precaution

From HoCo school officials:

Dear Hammond Middle School Parents,

Hammond Middle School students are being dismissed today at 1:00 p.m. as a precautionary measure. Small areas of the hallway ceilings in both the 7th and 8th grade wings are showing signs of minor bowing under the weight of the snow, which is normal, according to the structural engineer who examined the roof today. This presents no danger to the building structure or the occupants.

As a precaution, maintenance workers will be on the roof this afternoon to remove 2 feet of snow from these isolated areas of the roof. So as a precautionary measure, we are dismissing our middle school students early today only.

As a result of this situation, only our sixth graders had lunch today. Seventh and eighth graders did not have lunch.

We are sharing this information with elementary school parents so you will have accurate information about what is taking place on our campus, even though this situation does not involve the elementary school. Elementary students will be dismissed at the regular time.

The safety of our students is always a priority. Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions.

Kerry McGowan

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mall Operator Bids For GGP

From AP, via WaPo:

INDIANAPOLIS -- The nation's largest shopping mall owner, Simon Property Group, made a $10 billion hostile bid Tuesday to acquire its ailing rival, General Growth Properties.

The deal would allow General Growth, the No. 2 owner of shopping centers, to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. General Growth filed for bankruptcy last year after buckling under the weight of billions in debt it racked up during a massive expansion effort fueled by cheap credit. General Growth's best known centers include the Glendale Galleria in Southern California and the South Street Seaport in Manhattan.

Man Those Shovels

"Share the road" takes on a whole new meaning these days.

Lots and lots of posts and news stories about shovel brigades, trying to clear paths and bus stops for schoolkids, and fire hydrants for emergency crews.

Here's one sample from Oakland Mills High:

Please consider joining us Tuesday! (See below.)

As I look at the neighborhood sidewalks, I share Mr. Eastham's concern for our students who walk to school.

I thought it would be a great gesture to our students if we, the staff and the community, could make some kind of dent in the almost insurmountable obstacle facing our students. I would like to invite as many as possible to come together at 11:00am tomorrow, Tuesday, in front of the school with shovels, scrapers, and any other snow and ice removal tools and make a narrow walkway for our students.

We can start in front of the school and branch out to as many areas of the community that we can. If we all put in an hour or two, whatever we get done would be something of value.

At OM we care!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Where Should Sonic Go?

The bank approved your loan to bring a Sonic to Columbia. You are a hero to all your friends. HoCo exec Ulman and Courtney are tweeting. HoCoMoJo has secured the online video rights. Tale of Two Cities wants you to appear on his radio show. HowChow has created a Facebook page in your honor.

But now the hard part, where do you put it? Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills have some big empty lots but, like a lot of village centers, they are sorta off the beaten path. Oh, if only we in Oakland Mills had that new bridge linking us to town center!

In fact, we are hard pressed to think of many spots in the middle of Columbia. Perhaps over by Howard High, where the old Columbia Palace theater used to be would make a good spot...but that's edge city. And please don't put it by I-95.

If ever there was a chance for GGP to really show its chops -- and the potential for downtown -- the future is now.

Friday, February 12, 2010

For The Record: How Much Fell

WaPo's Capital Weather Gang offered this recap of the region's snowiest winter on record.

Another link has the summary from the National Weather Service:


The Sun's Maryland weather blog offers its own take, which pushes BWI total to 79.9 inches.

More totals
for latest event:


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snowplow Tracker Lost Under A Drift

From a tweet from HoCoMoJo passing on a tweet from our county exec:

HoCoMoJo RT @kenulman:140 plows out making progress, tough work, please be patient. Plow tracker not showing all plows out, working to fix #hocosnow

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Villain -- Or...?

From the Sun:

A Columbia man has been arrested after police say he stole a front loader and used it to clear driveways.

A Caterpillar skid steer loader was reported stolen sometime between Friday and Monday from a parking garage on U.S. 1 and Mission Road in Jessup, Howard County police said. The vehicle was equipped with LoJack, and on Tuesday morning officers traced it to a home in Laurel and found it parked in the driveway, police said.

The homeowners said a friend had left it there after clearing their driveway, and police worked to track the man down.

David Earl Bryant, 40, of the 9600 block of Hingston Downs has been charged with felony theft, theft, motor vehicle theft, unauthorized use of a vehicle, and removing or defacing a VIN number. Electronic court records show Bryant was released on his own recognizance and he did not appear to have a prior criminal record in Maryland.

Salt Supplies Low

Passing on this brief Tweet from kenulman, the county executive around 11a. As one member of the Talk Team put it, we can only imagine the long caravan of trucks waiting to fill up!

Give update WJZ-13 in a few mins. On call with Gov and County Execs about salt situation. Was low, but salt coming into port now.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Compare The Response

Earlier we passed on CA's response to this record-breaking snow event, warning that folks would be towed if they tried to park in an association lot.

Here's Montgomery County's way of handling things:

County Extends Suspension of Enforcement in Public
Parking Lots and Garages Through Thursday

The County will continue to allow free parking through Thursday in County-operated parking garages and lots in the parking lot districts in Wheaton, Silver Spring, Bethesda and Montgomery Hills. To see maps of the parking districts, go to

Residents are encouraged to park in these garages and lots rather than on the street, to make it easier for plowing operations to occur.

Clear Snow From Decks/Flat Roofs

We saw this on the River Hill listserv:

* Reduce the Collapse Risks - Residents are encouraged to shovel all flat roofs and decks to prevent the potential for collapse. Most roofs in Howard County have been designed for a live load of 30 lbs. per square foot (PSF), which relates to 57.7” or approximately 60” (5’) of heavy wet snow. 30 PSF is a uniformly distributed live load, not the absolute failure load. It is also a worst-case, conservative estimate.

The biggest concern is blocked primary and/or secondary roof drains, especially on flat roofs. This becomes an even bigger concern as the snow begins to melt, or if we get rain on top of snow. Collapse warning signs:

1. Visibly sagging roofs or ceilings, either inside or outside.
2. Noticeably opening cracks or building joints.
3. ANY moaning, creaking or cracking sounds from the floors, walls, or especially the roof/ceiling.

If you experience a or b LEAVE THE BUILDING, evaluate the roof loading conditions, and if it can be done safely, mitigate the overloading condition(s) (i.e. clear the drains, reduce the drifts). If you experience c, EVACUATE THE BUILDING IMMEDIATELY and Dial 911, then consult with a qualified structural engineer.

Drifting and melting snow can also overload basement foundation walls, causing them to push in and collapse. As the snow starts to melt, general flooding will also be a concern.

(This information has been provided by the Howard County Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits)

We Surrender

HoCo schools have thrown in the towel:

All Howard County public schools are closed for the remainder of the week. All evening activities in schools, both school-sponsored and community-sponsored, are canceled. This includes high school athletic practices and games.

UPDATE: And so has CA:

Inclement Weather Notice: Due to current weather conditions and forecast, CA will close all facilities today, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. and will remain closed thru Wednesday, Feb. 10. CA Headquarters and Membership Service Center will close today at 4 p.m. and also remain closed thru Wednesday, Feb. 10. The Columbia Art Center will not hold classes today or tomorrow.

Columbia Ice Rink and Owen Brown Tennis Bubble will be closed until further notice.

CA's Inclement Weather Policy will go into effect at 4 p.m. today, meaning that all programs, classes, lessons, etc scheduled after 4 p.m. will be cancelled. KidSpace will be closing at 5 p.m. and is operating under minimum staffing and those with children under the age of two should make reservations before coming to the club.

Parking at the facilities is limited and the County is encouraging residents to stay off the roads.

Monday, February 8, 2010

CA: Not On Our Lot

Several listservs sent this out in response to the county's big snowstorm:

Overnight parking not permitted in CA parking lots
Vehicles will be towed

The Columbia Association (CA) would like to inform residents that overnight parking is not permitted in any CA-owned parking area, including Community Centers and fitness and recreation facilities.  Vehicles that are parked in CA lots overnight will be towed at the owner’s expense.

In the aftermath of the weekend snowstorm, CA’s snow emergency personnel have done a tremendous job clearing roads, parking lots and sidewalks.  With the possibility of another snowstorm over the next several days, CA wants to ensure that all parking areas will remain clear for facilities to remain open and for residents to arrive safely.

Please visit or call CA’s Inclement Weather Hotline at 410-715-3154 for the latest weather-related cancellations, postponements or schedule changes at all CA facilities.

Use Care Warming Up The Car

From a Town Center listserv:

A lot of us have cleared snow away from our cars already, but with  more snow on the way and some cars still under snow, can you please   circulate this warning on the Town Center e-mail list? The following  link is to a relevant post on the Baltimore Sun's Maryland Weather   blog. As you might remember, there were a few fatalities in the last   big snow of 2003, when people sat in their cars with the engines running and were overcome by fumes. Apparently, it's happening again.
Also, you can access the HoCo snowplow tracker here.

Neighbors Need Help

We've seen several pleas like this one from the Oakland Mills Village Association:

We’ve gotten calls from residents who are unable to shovel their driveways.

Calls are coming in from all over Oakland Mills.  We need able bodied snow shovelers.

IF you can offer assistance anywhere in Oakland Mills please email me your name and

number and I’ll pass that along to those who need help.

...We’ll do the best we can to connect you.

This is most definitely the time to help out one another.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shovel Power

When a neighborhood gets together it can move mountains (of snow!). And clear a cul-de-sac.

From Drop Box

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Who And Led Zeppelin For $5.75

Snowed in and surfing the Web turned up this gem from a legendary Merriweather concert. (A lawn ticket was $3.75; of course gate-crashing was free!)

HoCo General Seeks Help

From a HopkinsHowardC tweet:


Friday, February 5, 2010

Oakland Mills In Space

From the HoCo Times:

The man who has dreamed of flying into space from the time he was a toddler watching Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walk on the moon is finally getting his wish, and he will be making a major shout-out to his Columbia alma mater while there.

Air Force Col. Terry Virts, a graduate of Oakland Mills High School, will take off on the space shuttle Endeavor when it lifts off Feb. 7 to go the International Space Station. One of the items Virts will be taking with him will be an Oakland Mills High School banner.....

Virts graduated from Oakland Mills in 1985 and began attending the U.S. Air Force Academy. He spent about 10 years in the Air Force flying F-16 jets and went on to receive a master's degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He became a test pilot and in 2000 joined NASA.

This will be Virts' first trip to space, and he will be piloting the mission.

The mission of this trip, dubbed STS-130, includes the delivery of two pieces of equipment to be attached to the International Space Station. One is Tranquility, a structure that will house life-support systems such as air and water revitalizers; and the other is Cupola, a seven-windowed, dome-like structure that will be used as an observatory, according to the NASA preflight interview.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Downtown Details

The council adjusted the plan for downtown as part of its unanimous vote this week.

For one, it decided instead of mandating that at least 15 percent of the housing units be reserved for people who cannot afford to pay the going rate, the developers kick in millions to a housing trust fund.

Supporters said the kitty would give them more flexibility to come up with creative ways to provide affordable housing.

Also, in a nod to the CA-GGP feud, the future "Merriweather" neighborhood is now called the "Merriweather-Symphony Woods" neighborhood. Rolls right off the tongue.

The plan now formally calls for the construction of a new pathway connecting the future Blandair Park east of Route 29 with downtown and then continuing to HoCo General Hospital. There was also talk about encouraging the development of a conference center downtown.

All in all, the final vote was fascinating in one respect. There was almost no speechifying. It was as if Council members were too exhausted by the process to say much more than thanks to everyone who participated.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Downtown Plan Approved

Finally, Columbia, we have a plan. The Howard County Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve new development rules for downtown that allow for up to 5,500 new homes, 20-story buildings, new streetscapes, a reimagined Symphony Woods and plenty more.

The Sun summarizes what happens next.

Even with approval of the zoning, no actual construction is expected for at least a few years, after reams of county requirements are satisfied, detailed plans approved and, most importantly, if economic conditions have improved enough to make capital available.

Gregory F. Hamm, GGP's general vice president and Columbia general manager, said the result of Monday's three-hour voting session is "fantastic. I would say by early 2012, subject to market conditions, we should be ready to break ground."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hammond Offers Reward For Arson Info

School officials passed this on:

The Howard County Police Department is offering a $500 reward for information about the fire which occurred in our school’s auditorium on Thursday, January 7th, 2010 at approximately 12:30 pm.

If you or your child has any information about the arsonist responsible for causing this substantial damage to our school, please contact the Howard County Police Department @ 410-313-STOP right away!

Callers may remain anonymous.

Design Work Begins On Route 29

WBAL reports that the state highway administration is kicking off work that had been put on hold when the economy went south:

The SHA started a project to fix that in 2005, but when the economy took a downturn in 2008, they had to abandon it. They're currently picking it up again, and a big part of the project is widening the road to three lanes from Middle Patuxent River to just south of Route 175.

"It's going to help out. Obviously, it's going to create more space, which is always good," said driver Chris Eckford.

The project also includes improving the intersection at River's Edge Road, resurfacing the pavement and constructing noise barriers where needed.

The project isn't funded for construction yet. Officials are in the design phase, which is expected to take two to three years.