Ellicott City: Is Past Prologue? A Recap by Peter Conrad
Post Disaster Planning on Ellicott City
This past January 31th, on a rather chilly night in Ellicott City, some 40 planners gathered to hear about the ongoing master planning effort for Ellicott City. This event, sponsored by the Maryland Chapter of the American Planning Association, provided attendees with an opportunity to hear about Howard County’s post-flood planning process and earn 1 hour of CM credits.
Ellicott City, if you recall, was devastated by a flash flood on the evening of July 30, 2016, at a time when many visitors were enjoying its restaurants and taverns. The toll that night was significant for this historic community; at least 90 businesses were affected, 107 homes that house 190 residents were flooded, dozens of vehicles were washed into the Patapsco and two people lost their lives. The onset of flooding from the over 6 inches of rain that fell in just two hours was so fast that first responders performed 120 swift water rescues. There was significant damage to the towns streets and sidewalks that Main Street remained closed for more than two months as businesses and residents cleaned up from the floods and began repairing damaged buildings, streets, utilities and sidewalks. Main Street reopened to vehicle and pedestrian traffic on October 6, 2016.
Nationally, significant post disaster planning efforts have been on the rise, particularly in East Coast states after Hurricane Sandy. To be successful, these efforts need to be sensitive to the immediate physical, financial and emotional concerns of the impacted businesses and residents. Howard County formed a Community Advisory Group (CAG) which was charged with bringing the gap between short/intermediate disaster response and longer-term planning. The CAG was an important part of the process as it brought the community together to share concerns and discuss recovery efforts, with government officials there mostly to listen. As the CAG proceeded to meet into the fall the agenda broadened to include learning about recovery methods in other communities. Finally, the group was an important mechanism to gather ideas and develop a local framework to incorporate into master plan. The CAGs Final Report is a good example for other communities faced with bridging the gap between short/intermediate term and long-term recovery.
The two major partners in this planning effort, the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) and Mahan-Rykiel Associates, Inc., the lead consultant, coordinated the session. This presentation was introduced by Peter G. Conrad, Deputy Director, first shared an overview of the flood event, the response efforts in the months following the flood, and the steps leading up to the master plan process. Mahan-Rykiel staff Megan Griffith and Jeff Dube followed with additional details on the components and steps involved in the master plan to date and laid out the model to an Integrated Approach to Resiliency.
We had an engaged crowd that night as there were several questions regarding the flood modeling, the public engagement process and the local business management structure. Several attendees were inspired after the event to support the Ellicott City revitalization by gathering at the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company for some after-event socializing and networking.
The Maryland Chapter is interested in supporting more events like these – if you have any ideas or suggestions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter G. Conrad, AICP
Deputy Director, Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning