The Columbia Association's Board of Directors voted to approve the Inner Arbor Plan for Symphony Woods that has been called bold by its supporters and criticized for a lack of specifics by its detractors.
"This concept plan sets a direction," said Gregg Schwind, the board member for Hickory Ridge.
The conceptual plan that features an arts village, elevated walkway, wooded amphitheater and an iconic sculpture will now officially be pursued by the Columbia Association, replacing the pathway and fountain design previously approved by CA. In addition, CA will pursue the formation of a 501(c)(3) trust to help pay for the plan, as well as designate Symphony Woods as the preferred location for a new CA headquarters building.
During a contentious resident speak out, most residents criticized the plan and pressed board members for details about the cost and who will pay for the amenities.
"I think you need to come up with some kind of estimate, which can change over years," said Linda Wengel, who was speaking on behalf of the Town Center Community Association.
Cy Paumier, one of the designers of the original plan for the woods, asked the board to consider using both his plan and the McCall plan.
"We don't see them as two different plans," said Paumier, who added he believes the original plan could be phase one and then CA could pursue the development of the McCall plan in later phases, an idea supported by other residents at the meeting.
Board member Alex Hekimian, who represents Oakland Mills, criticized what he said was a lack of information.
"It seems like we're trying to do in three weeks what we normally take several months, or sometimes close to a year to do," said Hekimian.
But despite the criticism, the board pressed ahead, with Town Center representative Suzanne Waller reiterating what CA has maintained since the plan was first pitched last month—that this is a concept plan, and if approved, more specific details will come out as the plan develops.
"The thing that is so attractive about this idea is that it strikes a balance between both active and contemplative enjoyment of Symphony Woods," said the board's chair Shari Zaret, who represents King's Contrivance.
The plan passed by a vote of 8-2 with Hekimian and Cynthia Coyle, the representative from Harper's Choice, voting against it.
Soon after the decision was announced, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman issued a statement saying, "The Columbia Association board has taken an important step in embracing a new vision for Symphony Woods and Downtown Columbia. Working together, we can bring fresh vibrancy to Columbia and fulfill James Rouse's vision. This is a good day for this community's future."
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Editor's Note: In the original version of this article Harper's Choice representative Cynthia Coyle's name was spelled incorrectly. It has been fixed, we regret the error.