Some folks raised a fuss when the former Rouse Co., now General Growth Properties Inc., proposed building big-box stores in Columbia Town Center.

But at least some of those people are okay with big boxes opening elsewhere in Columbia.

General Growth faces little opposition to its plan to build a Lowe's store at Gateway Overlook Shopping Center on the north side of Route 175, just west of Interstate 95.

The Chicago-based mall developer, which purchased Rouse last year, is doing utility work and paving roads there as it awaits approval for the store from the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning.

Some neighbors raised concerns about traffic issues early on. But the planning board hasn't heard many complaints since then, not even from Howard County Council member Ken Ulman (D-West Columbia), whose wife drove to a Lowe's store in Catonsville recently in search of a new dishwasher.

Ulman opposed Rouse's plans to bring big-box retailers to Town Center.

"I didn't think big-box retail made sense in Columbia Town Center. . . . I thought it would not lend itself to the pedestrian friendly, vibrant town center model," Ulman said. "Certain things make sense in certain places. I don't have an objection to Lowe's coming to Howard County."

Population Boom Predicted

Brace for a "massive influx" of 15,000 people into the Baltimore-Washington corridor in the next few years, the new leader of Fort Meade said during a recent gathering of Maryland military base officials in Crownsville.

"This rapid expansion will not be without its challenges for our region," said Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy, the post's commander. He said he expects 5,291 new employees at the base if a plan to realign the nation's military bases is approved within a month.

McCreedy said he thinks most workers whose jobs will relocate to Fort Meade will probably commute for three to four years from Northern Virginia, creating huge traffic headaches for Anne Arundel, home to Fort Meade, and parts of neighboring Howard and Prince George's counties.

Then there are the contractors. About 8,000 contractors will probably follow Northern Virginia's Defense Information Systems Agency to the area. Also coming are an estimated 1,500 new employees for each of the next few years at the National Security Agency, on Fort Meade's campus.

On the upside, McCreedy said, new jobs will rev up the region's economic growth.

By fiscal 2010, Fort Meade should pump $5 billion in salaries and contracts into the region's economy, up from nearly $4 billion in a typical year, he said.

APL Names Science/Tech Chief

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has selected John Sommerer as its first director of science and technology.

Sommerer, a 25-year veteran of APL, will help the lab form partnerships with outside groups, other universities and departments within Johns Hopkins. The goal is to help APL provide technological solutions for the nation's security and space exploration needs.

"It's important for our business areas to focus on technical challenges of appropriate scope and significance, and I'll help to ensure that they have the right resources -- both internal and external -- to carry out their tasks," Sommerer said in a statement.

Sommerer will continue serving as APL's chief technology officer and as chairman of APL's Science and Technology Council.

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