New Howard Co. exec may halt demolition of historic Ellicott City buildings

The newly-elected county executive of Howard County will look for options "to avoid the need for the demolition of lower Main Street," in flood-prone Ellicott City.

WASHINGTON — The newly-elected county executive of Howard County will look for options “to avoid the need for the demolition of lower Main Street,” in flood-prone Ellicott City, WTOP has learned.

Calvin Ball, a Democrat who defeated Republican Allan Kittleman, said he is ready to move forward with several of the proposals Kittleman and councilman Jon Weinstein proposed in August in their five-year flood mitigation plan, which was partially funded by the council in October. Weinstein was defeated in the Democratic primary.

However, Ball, who as a council member voted against funding Kittelman and Weinstein’s plan, said his transition team “will be tasked with evaluating all viable options,” to avoid buying and tearing down 10 buildings along lower Main Street, which were devastated in the 2016 and 2018 floods.

The current five-year plan will allow the county to borrow almost $16 million and transfer almost $17 million from money designated for other projects. It also calls for the purchase and demolition of one building on upper Main Street, and two in the upstream Valley Mede neighborhood

In a statement, Ball told WTOP he is set to move forward with portions of his predecessor’s plan, while evaluating the most controversial aspect — razing Main Street buildings near where floodwaters bottleneck before entering the Patapsco River.

“I want to assure the residents, businesses and property owners that I intend to keep the timeline of upstream storm water mitigation projects,” said Ball. “I agree with the need to widen the stream channel at Ellicott Mills Brewery and La Palapa.”

The two businesses are near the channel which snakes through and, in some cases, under buildings along Main Street in the former mill town.

“I also intend to work on fully engineered storm water facilities that will provide additional downstream protection,” said Ball.

The Kittleman and Weinstein plan included several upstream water retention facilities and widening the culvert which carries water along the western portion of Main Street, heading downhill toward the vulnerable shopping district.

The water retention facilities will reduce the amount of water, and slow it as it heads downhill, according to the current plan.

However, Ball is not committed to moving forward with the purchase and demolition of the 10 buildings on lower Main Street identified in the current plan, since the funds approved by the council for purchase of the buildings will not be available until Ball and a new five-member county council are in office.

Contacted by WTOP, Kittleman’s spokesman Mark Miller says “he stands by his five-year mitigation plan as the best plan for Ellicott City — beyond that, he has no comment.”

In presenting their mitigation plan, Kittleman and Weinstein listed their primary goal as preserving lives in Ellicott City. A total of four people died in the 2016 and 2018 flood events.

Ball insists on taking time to evaluate whether or not demolishing the buildings on Main Street will affect public safety.

“Our work in this regard will not delay those critical projects that will provide immediate safety for Main Street,” said Ball. “We will also now have the opportunity to work with our state legislative leaders to find additional sources of funding that will provide for a better, more complete plan.”

“The people of Ellicott City are at the top of my mind, and have a seat at my table,” said Ball. “You have waited long enough — the campaign is over, and now it is time to heal.”

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