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Ball set to unveil plan for Ellicott City’s flood-prone Main Street

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball is slated to reveal Monday his plan to protect Ellicott City’s flood-prone Main Street.

Options available to Ball involve razing as many as six buildings in historic Ellicott City. The cost of implementing the proposals could be as high as $175 million. The decision comes after Ball vowed in April to make a selection following a transparent process with robust community input.

“I think I owe it to our community to have this community conversation, and I trust our community will weigh in with a thoughtful response. In the end I am the county executive, and I will be making a decision based upon that community input,” Ball said during a news conference in April revealing details of proposals under consideration.

Ball’s team solicited input from residents on a plan to protect the historic mill town from deadly flooding. Main Street has been swamped twice in storms, in July 2016 and May 2018.

Ball’s team suggested five scenarios that involved razing between four and six buildings on the south side of the 8000 and 8100 blocks of Main Street. Options include varying mixes of infrastructure work and range in cost from $63.5 million to $175 million. The projects are expected to take between four and seven years to complete.

Efforts by Ball’s administration to determine how residents felt about the proposals included gathering feedback online, informing residents about the plans via the executive’s newsletter and holding a community meeting on Thursday.

Asked whether Ball had already selected the proposal he will back or whether debates were ongoing, Ball spokesman Scott Peterson said the executive’s decision will be made on Monday.

Ball’s predecessor, Allan Kittleman, pushed a plan involving the demolition of about 5% of the buildings in Old Ellicott City. That plan would have taken five years to complete and would have cost roughly $56.5 million.

Residents and historic preservationists objected to the plan, with opponents especially upset about what they called a lack of public input regarding a proposal to demolish 10 buildings.

“We could spend our time looking over our shoulders, discussing, debating and second-guessing how we got to this point. We could speculate and place blame, but the reality is much of what happened in the past occurred long before any of us standing here today were involved in this battle to save our town,” Kittleman said when he released his plan in August 2018. “Looking behind us won’t solve the problem, it won’t mitigate flooding and it definitely won’t save lives.”

Roughly a month after he defeated Kittleman in November 2018, Ball held a news conference to discuss the first phase of his “Safe and Sound” plan to protect residents and the town from flooding. He pledged greater transparency and said he wanted to avoid as much demolition as possible.

“We must make sure we’re not using a sledgehammer when only a scalpel is necessary,” Ball said.

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