Howard County Maryland Blog

Convention of States in Maryland

Tom D’Asto and Mary Kay Sigaty

Posted by David Keelan on Friday, October 27, 2006

Tom D’Asto’s platform on the redevelopment of Town Center has resonated with a lot of voters.  (See Tom’s responses to the Blogger Forum) It is the key issue facing District Four.  He supports a one year moratorium on the process and has has presented an 8 point plan on Town Center development:

  1. I believe height restrictions are a necessary part of any master plan. A reasonable limit will provide a more aesthetically uniform standard.
  2. I believe we should preserve Columbia’s lakefront. This is a historic part of our community that should remain unchanged.
  3. I believe that Symphony Woods should be placed in a protective “preservation easement” so that future generations can enjoy this unique part of our community.
  4. I believe Merriweather Post Pavilion should be maintained as a privately owned open air facility and it should not be choked out of existence with hundreds of new homes on the Crescent property.
  5. I believe all existing traffic problems, parking issues, and gridlock should be Where I think the differ greatly is the pace in which the development should occur and how dense that development should beaddressed and corrected before any density changes are even proposed.
  6. I believe we must have an adequate, drought free, water supply to provide for our citizens before any new homes are built above the current density limits.
  7. I believe that sewage treatment plant upgrades must be built prior to any density increases to avoid sewage spills and to provide for state mandated nutrient removal, necessary to protect and preserve the Chesapeake Bay.
  8. I believe the development community should contribute significantly to the cost of public improvements prior to granting them any additional zoning privileges.

Tom doesn’t believe in a high density Town Center.

Mary Kay Sigaty seems to back the high density development of Town Center.  I think Mary Kay has avoided answering the question directly.  “Does she support higher density development in Town Center?”

She rightly points out shortcomings in the process, mostly related to things that still need to be addressed, as does Tom, she says:

Downtown Columbia needs to be developed as a vibrant urban center, not just an arid and congested bedroom community. The redevelopment plans must not go forward until the concerns of Columbia’s citizens, as expressed during the Charrette and elsewhere, have been addressed. The community still does not have satisfactory answers with regard to:

  • Traffic patterns
  • Parking
  • Affordable housing
  • Adequate urban center infrastructure – schools, parks, coffee houses, shops, etc.
  • Protection of the existing Columbia waterfront
  • Adequate environmental protections

She seems to advocate opening up development to other developers other GGP. 

There are other property owners in the designated downtown area and they would not have access to the density without striking a deal with GGP. This would make it impossible for them to participate in the development of the downtown on an equal footing with GGP. This part of the current zoning code turns dwelling units into a commodity that benefits GGP, not the citizens of Columbia and the county.

While I agree that putting this type of density in the hands of one developer can lead to problems.  I would like here to clarify this statement – because I don’t know if she means other developers or individual property owners.

Both Tom and Mary Kay care a great deal about the future of Town Center and the rest of Columbia.  There is no doubt about it.

Tom believes that the input from citizens in the charrette has not been addressed.  In fairness, neither does Mary Kay.  Where they differ is:

  • High Density (Mary Kay seems to support it and Tom does not.)
  • Moratorium (Tom wants a delay so we can re-evaluate.  Mary Kay does not.)

We are talking about an issue that effects the entire County.  I think we should err on the side of caution and agree with Tom and Merdon on the moratorium. 

At the LWV forum at Howard County Community College Mary Kay actually said that Howard County is below the average taxed county in the region.  What does that mean?  Is she implying that taxes across the region are too high or that Howard County’s are too low?  Is she advocating tax cuts or tax increases?

What was disappointing about the Patuxent Press endorsements to me was that they mentioned all the County candidates by name – except Tom D’Asto, and they did not address the Town Center redevelopment issue.

Tom offers a specific platform and specific remedies that he can be held accountable for.  Mary Kay doesn’t offer the same type of clarity on the issues and I don’t know where she actually stands.


6 Responses to “Tom D’Asto and Mary Kay Sigaty”

  1. Mark J said

    Great post David, I really think that the density issue is going to be what resonates amongst the voters on election day. I am reminded of what Ken Ulman said at the Harpers Choice forum about Town Center not being a VIBRANT community gathering place and he was booed. It is a hard sell for Columbians to believe after looking for a parking spot at the mall for 30 minutes that we aren’t vibrant enough and need more density. The traffic issue is one whole other topic that just infuriates most of my neighbors. Tom’s prescence on the council is needed to give Merdon a chance to enact his slowed growth plan for a better Columbia.

  2. Tom Berkhouse said

    Mark J,

    I agree 100%. Ulman is still trying to spin himself as someone who will control growth. He may have been involved with opposing the Crescent Property development, but now he’s the main supporter of the Town Center Plan, which proposes 3 times as much density and development as the Crescent Plan. It does not make sense, and it shows how he flip flops on issues. The citizens of Columbia know it, and he’s lost a lot of votes. Tom has presented his positions much more clearly than Mary Kay – kudos to him. I think many residents in District are with Tom on the issues – and hopefully they will vote for him on Election Day. Mary Kay might be taking the voters for granted.

  3. Treehugger said

    I think Tom needs to remember that District 4 is more than downtown Columbia voters in River Hill and Dorsey Care about other issues and that is why he is not connecting with the voter.

  4. MBT said

    Treehugger – I’m not sure where you are getting your information about River Hill voters. I have doorknocked HUGE swaths of River Hill with Tom. Besides the fact he knows almost all the families with kids in River Hill, due to his numerous coaching positions and being cubmaster for a Cub Scout troop in the area, his overall platform has been resonating quite well in River Hill. I am also hearing from voters in River Hill who are seriously concerned about Town Center. They all shop at the mall, go to concerts at Merriwether and eat at Town Center restaurants. Many of them tell us they moved to Howard County to get away from the urbanization of Montgomery County. I can’t address Dorsey, because they are not in my district, but they shop at the mall too.

    His platform is also much more than downtown development, and as a political junkie, you know that. He also advocates fiscal responsibility, tax caps for senior citizens, support for first responders, and others. Read for yourself:

    I am sure that Tom would be quite willing to take your toast at his victory party.

  5. hocomd said


    Please read Tom’s responses to the blogger candidate forum. I linked to them.

    My post was about Town Center. I am not Tom and I am not Mary Kay.

  6. Mark J said

    MBT is right, Tom should do better in River Hill than in the heavily democratic Columbia precincts, where people tend to just vote their party and not the issues.

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