As rumors swirl about General Growth Properties Inc.'s plans for the Rouse Co. and its community development division, some members of the Howard County Council decided they want to leave nothing to chance.
So they were preparing to hold an outdoor news conference yesterday near the Howard County Central Library off Little Patuxent Parkway to tell the Chicago-based company what the council is willing -- and not willing -- to let any new owner do with the last chunks of land in Columbia's Town Center.
"We welcome any new entity," said council member Ken Ulman (D-West Columbia). "But I also want to be clear that we are not going to be steamrollered."
Ulman has been a leading spokesman for those who want to influence the type of development on the so-called Crescent property, about 51 acres next to Merriweather Post Pavilion. They have discussed making downtown Columbia more pedestrian-friendly, possibly creating a network of bridges and expanding pathways that link different parts of the community.
Rouse has proposed selling Merriweather and recommended that it be downsized and enclosed. The company also has filed papers with the county Planning Board offering broad outlines of a plan to build stores, office buildings and possibly big-box retailers on the site adjacent to Merriweather, which is zoned for commercial development.
"There will be no big-box stores there," Ulman said this week before the news conference.
Earlier this year, county officials rejected Rouse's plan to build up to 1,600 new housing units on the Crescent site. Rouse is appealing that decision in Howard Circuit Court.
Plunkett Staying Put
Assistant Superintendent Roger L. Plunkett said he is not stepping down from his post after the resignation of another top school official who, along with Plunkett, was at the center of a grade-tampering controversy at Centennial High School.
"I'm committed to the Howard County public school system," said Plunkett, who has worked in the system for more than a decade. "I'm working daily and doing what I need to do to make sure that we have a successful first day of school."
Last week Kimberly Statham announced her resignation as chief academic officer, effective Monday, saying the past year had been difficult for her family. She and Plunkett had been accused of using their positions to alter the academic record of Statham's daughter, who was a student at Centennial. The county Board of Education found in May that there was no basis for the allegations.
Pumpkin Coach Finds Home
There's a happy ending to the tale of the bright orange pumpkin coach from Ellicott City's Enchanted Forest theme park. The coach traveled by flatbed trailer back to Howard County last week and soon will be welcoming visitors to an Ellicott City petting farm.
The newly restored fiberglass vehicle was donated to Elioak Farm on Route 108 by its former owners, Baltimore County businessmen Elby Proffitt and Scott Shephard. The two men acquired the vehicle in June after bidding $2,300 at a charity auction sponsored by Coldwell Banker in Ellicott City. The coach, pulled by small tractors disguised as white mice, took visitors to Cinderella's castle at the theme park, which closed permanently in 1994.
Proffitt and Shephard sparked an outcry from Enchanted Forest enthusiasts when they listed the coach on the Internet auction site eBay, with a starting bid of $6,000. There were no takers, and the coach remained in an East Baltimore commercial building for the last month.
Proffitt said that he had received several offers from area businesses for the coach but that he decided to donate it to Martha Clark, owner of Elioak Farm.
"I felt very comfortable with her," he said.
Clark, who earlier had offered to purchase the coach from Proffitt and Shephard, already has the vehicle inside a small fenced enclosure. The farm opens for the fall season Sept. 4.
"I'm just very excited it will be accessible to people," she said.
Staff writer Ylan Q. Mui contributed to this report.