Preservation Maryland, the statewide non-profit preservation advocacy organization, issued the following statement today in response to Howard County’s $50 million proposed demolition plan for Ellicott City:

Preservation maryland expresses serious concern over $50 million demolition scheme

In the wake of devastating flash floods, the future of Ellicott City’s historic district and flood prone buildings has been widely and openly debated. On Thursday, August 23rd, Howard County Government announced their intention to demolish a staggering 5% of the historic district in an attempt to mitigate the ongoing flood risks facing the historic community.

Preservation Maryland fully supports efforts to protect the lives of those who live in and visit Ellicott City. Proven stormwater management tools and scientifically driven hydrologic retention efforts should be employed to reverse the damaging manmade impacts now causing these events. Demolition of historic buildings, is not, however, a proven strategy nor has it been adequately studied in Ellicott City to understand its hydrological impact. Furthermore, this plan, developed without substantive public input, could result in the de-listing of Ellicott City from the National Register of Historic Places which would curtail certain incentives and tax credits available for the historic community.

Perhaps most concerning is that this $50 million demolition plan does not appear to substantively mitigate or resolve flood risks. At the same time, by removing large portions of the built environment, new flood patterns could arise and potentially cause extensive damage to the National Historic Landmark B&O Railroad station which would sit in an even more vulnerable location. Additionally, Preservation Maryland is interested to learn more about the county’s decision making process in this planning effort and the extent to which other resources and structures were reviewed for demolition — and whether impervious surfaces, undeveloped land and existing structures above the historic town were considered as a part of the county’s review.

Preservation Maryland is currently considering all options and intends on distributing a white paper next week which explores viable alternatives to widescale demolition in the historic district. Ellicott City is one of the State of Maryland’s crown jewels. What is done here will resonate for generations to come – and could, if done correctly, set a standard to which the rest of the nation strives to meet. Preservation Maryland firmly believes we must rise to meet this challenge. The future of Ellicott City depends on it.