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.

Terrasa, a 1987 graduate of Oakland Mills High School, is a lawyer and has been a member of the Kings Contrivance Village Board since 2002. This year, she was appointed by Robey to the Howard Planning Board, but she recently resigned that post when she decided to run for the County Council.

"I was afraid my campaign would pose a distraction for the workings of the planning board," she said. Running for the council, she said, "is something I've thought about for a long time. I think of it as a great opportunity."

Two Sergeants, One Household

The Howard County police will need to be a little more precise when they refer to Sergeant Gibbons from now on.

That's because the department now has two officers with that rank: Ann Gibbons and her husband, Joseph Gibbons, who was promoted last month.

"They may both have the same rank," Lt. Mark S. Joyce quipped recently, "but we know who the boss is."

"Yes, we do, and it ain't me," said Joseph Gibbons, a 12-veteran of the force.

The two met soon after Joseph Gibbons joined the department. Another officer suggested he ask her out, and pretty soon they were engaged.

He's still not quite used to the new clothes and title that come with his promotion. "I'm still like, 'Am I sure this isn't my wife's shirt?' " he joked last month.

But by now he is certain. He was one of seven officers promoted by Police Chief G. Wayne Livesay during a brief ceremony last month. The others promoted were: Ellsworth Jones, from sergeant to lieutenant; Kurt Wall and Mike Yetter, from corporal to sergeant; and Cory Jefferson, Eric Kruhm and Todd McGill from police officer first class to corporal.

"This is a milestone you should be very proud of," Livesay told them. "Congratulations to all of you."

Passage of Full Ban Unlikely

The Howard County Council is scheduled to vote next week on a bill that would ban smoking in bars and restaurants. But passage of the measure, which was proposed by County Executive James N. Robey (D), seems unlikely. Three council members said last week that they would not support the ban.

The council members -- David A. Rakes (D-East Columbia), Charles C. Feaga (R-West County) and Christopher J. Merdon (R-Northeast County) -- said they instead would support a partial ban, which would exempt establishments that already have separately ventilated smoking areas. The partial ban, sponsored by Rakes, is scheduled for a vote in January.

Anti-smoking advocates have said they will continue to pressure the council for a more comprehensive ban. The vote on Robey's proposal is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building, at 3430 Court House Dr. in Ellicott City.

Family Reunion for the Holidays

Out by Lake Kittamaqundi, the bronze statue of Rouse Co. executive vice president Willard G. Rouse has been looking a little forlorn.

"He's kinda lonely," said sculptor William F. Duffy, at work this week in his Baltimore studio, where he is repairing the companion statue of Rouse's younger brother, Columbia founder James W. Rouse.

Vandals recently broke the statue's eyeglasses.

"It was basic mischief," said Duffy, who is casting a new pair out of heavy-duty bronze.

Columbia Association officials say they are not sure whether insurance will cover the $2,000 cost of the new glasses. But on the bright side, the brothers are expected to be reunited in time for Christmas.

Duffy said he hopes to have James repaired and back by Willard's side "in a week or so."

Staff writer Mary Otto contributed to this report.