Offices Proposed Next to Woodlawn

By Amit R. Paley and Susan DeFord
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 1, 2005

Landowner and developer Ronald Brasher is proposing to build a major office building next to Woodlawn, one of Howard County's oldest homes and a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Preservation advocates say they were unaware that the five-acre site at 9254 Old Annapolis Rd., where Woodlawn is situated, was rezoned last year from residential to commercial use. The change was one of dozens that occurred during the county's comprehensive zoning process.

"We missed that one completely," said Mary Catherine Cochran , president of Preservation Howard County. Woodlawn was home in the 1850s to Henry Howard Owings, who served as one of Howard's first officials after the county was formed in 1851. The property was added to the National Register in 1983, according to the register's Web site.

Brasher's recently submitted plans to the county for the "Woodlands" show an office building of about 74,000 square feet and a large parking lot surrounding the historic 19th-century house, which also would be used as offices. The house, now vacant, in recent years has held offices for a nonprofit organization.

The new building would be placed where there are trees dating to Woodlawn's construction. The office building also would be close to dilapidated slave quarters that predate Woodlawn. The Columbia Association, which owns the stone slave quarters, is restoring them.

Cochran has written county officials, asking them to require that the developer relocate his office building within the site to save trees and lessen its impact on Woodlawn and the adjacent slave quarters. Cochran noted that the plans show a contemporary brick-and-glass building that "is really out of character from what surrounds it."

No Need for Fence, Report Finds

A consultant has concluded that it isn't necessary to fence a popular Columbia playground near Lake Elkhorn, even though it was the site of a child's drowning three months ago.

The November report by Donna Thompson , executive director of the National Program for Playground Safety, was produced in response to a request by the Columbia Association Board of Directors. Columbia residents asked the board to act after a Laurel toddler wandered away from the playground Sept. 2 and drowned in the lake. Alex Ferrera , 23 months, had been visiting the playground with his day-care provider when he wandered off and was found floating in the water.

Measurements provided by the Columbia Association indicate that the playground is 160 feet from Lake Elkhorn's shore and 78 feet from Cradlerock Way in the village of Owen Brown, Thompson said. The playground is encircled by a pathway that acts as a "visual buffer" between the play area and the lake.

"Because of these features as well as distances, there is no compelling need to place a fence around the play area," she wrote. The consultant recommended moving playground benches to improve sight lines and installing signs urging that children be supervised by adults.

The report is scheduled to be discussed by the Columbia Association board of directors at its Dec. 8 meeting.

Terrasa to Run for Council Seat

Democrat Jennifer R. Terrasa of Kings Contrivance was scheduled this week to formally announced her candidacy for the Howard County Council seat held by Guy Guzzone (D-Southeast County). In a show of party support, Guzzone, the council chairman, and County Executive James N. Robey (D) planned to attend Terrasa's first fundraiser at a Columbia house Tuesday evening. Guzzone and Robey are leaving their county positions to seek election next year to the Maryland General Assembly.

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