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The fourteen member group of white men and one woman, Antonia Handler Chayes met for two days, twice a month, for half a year starting in 1963.

The Work Group suggested innovations for planners in education, recreation, religion, and health care, as well as ways of improving social interactions.

Columbia's "New Town District" zoning ordinance gave developers great flexibility about what to put where, without requiring county approval for each specific project.

By 1970, the project required additional financing to continue, borrowing million from Connecticut General, Manufacturers Hanover Trust, and Morgan Guaranty.

In 1972, amendments to New Town zoning were proposed to place a maximum height for buildings and maintain the original density limit of 2.2 units per acre were opposed by Rouse allies including the Columbia Association, Ellicott City Businessman's Association and Columbia Democratic Club.

Columbia was never incorporated; some governance, however, is provided by the non-profit Columbia Association, which manages common areas and functions as a homeowner association with regard to private property.

The first boards were filled entirely with Rouse Company appointees.

In 2004 the project was sold to General Growth Properties which went bankrupt in 2008.

General Growth Properties submitted a plan for increasing density throughout Columbia in 2004 which was unanimously voted down.Property taxes from commercial development would cover the additional services with which housing would burden the county.The urban planning process for Columbia included not only planners, but also a convened panel of nationally recognized experts in the social sciences, known as the Work Group.Ownership of the project fell to the previous Rouse subsidiary The Howard Hughes Corporation.Howard Hughes submitted a new plan to increase density in 2010 under the Ulman administration that passed unanimously.By late 1962, citizens had elected an all-Republican three-member council. These had included theories that the site was to become a medical research laboratory or a giant compost heap.