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Howard Co. to present flood plan for Chatham, Valley Meade communities

Howard County officials will field questions later this month on efforts to reduce flooding in two neighborhoods damaged by rising waters.

Staff from the Department of Public Works is expected to make an informal presentation of the flood mitigation plan for the Valley Meade and Chatham communities at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Church of the Resurrection, 3175 Paulskirk Drive.

Department employees will answer questions from residents and property owners about the strategy. The neighborhoods have struggled with flooding in recent years, particularly during major storms that hit the area over the last two years.

The Howard County Council on Monday approved transferring $1 million to pay for flood mitigation efforts in the neighborhoods. Attempts to reduce flooding in these neighborhoods primarily address drainage in the area.

Some residents and activists blame over-development in the area for the recent flooding. An engineering firm hired by the county to study high water found new development to be a contributing factor in recent deluges. But the new building is not the primary contributor, according to McCormick Taylor’s analysis.

Valley Meade and Chatham are included in a recent development moratorium enacted earlier this year by the county around Ellicott City.

Most of the attention regarding flood damage has focused on historic Main Street in nearby Ellicott City. Between July 2016 and last May, the area suffered two fatal floods causing millions of dollars in property damage to the historic former mill town that dates back to the 1770s.

That part of the county’s flood mitigation plan, backed by Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and Councilman Jon Weinstein, created controversy.

The five-year plan, released in August, involves demolishing roughly 20 percent of the buildings on the southern end of Main Street, a popular retail destination. The council also approved transferring $15.7 million earlier this week to fund those flood-reduction efforts.

Groups like Preservation Maryland argue there are alternatives to dealing with flooding that don’t include razing buildings.

“The rationale being put up is that this is somehow going to save Ellicott City from flooding, and unfortunately the science just doesn’t bear that out,” Preservation Maryland’s Executive Director Nicholas Redding told The Daily Record last month.

A survey released last week by Mason Dixon Polling and Strategy, paid for by Preservation Maryland, showed county residents divided on the plan, which is expected to cost up to $50 million.

Of the 625 county voters polled, 43 percent said the plan was not worth the cost to taxpayers. Another 31 percent of voters said the proposal is worth the price while 26 percent were unsure. The poll also found 74 percent of those voters said they back alternative solutions to demolition.

Supporters of the county’s plan, however, say it’s necessary to ensure the area’s safety. Waiting to address the issue, they argue, is not an option.

“(Public safety) has to take precedence over everything else,” Weinstein said earlier this week.

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