Historic Ellicott City Main Street. Flickr User mkriedel.

Post-Election Update on the Future of Historic Ellicott City

11/08/2018
By Nicholas A. Redding

Elections have consequences – and the most recent election in Howard County will have significant impacts on the future of historic Ellicott City.

As a non-partisan organization, Preservation Maryland watched from the sidelines as the 5-year, $50 million flood mitigation plan for Ellicott City became a significant campaign issue. With the election now settled, non-partisan groups like Preservation Maryland are prepared to engage with newly elected officials about the future of the historic community.

The 5-year flood mitigation plan announced in August 2018 and championed by now-outgoing County Executive Allan Kittleman and former Councilman Jon Weinstein had worthwhile and positive components. Preservation Maryland agreed and supported the scientifically-proven upstream stormwater retention and mitigation components of the plan – and we emphatically support their immediate implementation.

Historic signage in Ellicott City. Flickr user Jim Grey.

Preservation Maryland has also consistently supported the public acquisition of flood-prone properties in the lower historic town. Demolition of those properties, however, has never been a proven stormwater mitigation strategy, which we opposed, and we agree with County Executive-elect Calvin Ball who noted that moving forward the county will “take time to evaluate all plans in progress for effectiveness and efficiency…and make a decision from there.

The goal of the preservation community moving forward is two-fold:

  1. Implementation of the scientifically proven components of the 5-year plan
  2. Further study to identify proven strategies to increase safety and reduce floodwaters in lower Ellicott City – while retaining as much historic fabric as possible.

Unquestionably, this will be a difficult, complex and time-consuming task, but Preservation Maryland stands ready to assist Howard County and the new Ball Administration in this effort. Preservation Maryland’s independent 3rd party engineering review provides a framework for moving forward – which would include exploring a matrix of selected demolition and stormwater mitigation – as well as tunnel boring, flood-proofing, expanded flood walls, etc.

Complex problems rarely are solved by simple solutions. Ellicott City deserves a thoughtful and sophisticated planning process – and we are optimistic that process will now begin anew.

Learn more about our 3rd party engineering review

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Nicholas A. Redding · Executive Director

Nicholas A. Redding is Preservation Maryland’s Executive Director and between announcing major organizational updates, he often blogs about Maryland and Civil War history.

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