A proposed development of more than 700 homes in Gambrills is drawing protests from residents who fear it will destroy farmland and undermine the comprehensive rezoning completed in 1988.
Opponents say the land should be developed under its current zoning designation, which would allow far fewer homes on the site. The developer is seeking permission to designate the area for a planned unit development (PUD), which would allow the higher-density zoning.
A small group of concerned neighbors showed up yesterday morning at the Arundel Center in Annapolis, hoping to persuade a hearing officer to deny the special exception the developers need.
But the hearing was canceled when county officials discovered all the adjacent property owners were not aware of its subject. The legal notice printed in the paper mistakenly said the development was proposed for the east side of Route 3, when it is proposed for the west side.
If approved, the development -- called Crofton Farms -- would bring town homes and single-family homes to a 221-acre site off Route 3, opposite Waugh Chapel Road and just south of St. Stephens Church Road.
The property is owned by a partnership. Ernest J. Litty, president of Leimbach Development Inc. of Glen Burnie, has controlling interest. Other companies involved are the Halle Cos., a Silver-Spring based developer also building the Seven Oaks planned-unit development in Odenton; Severn Valley Farms; and Crofton Farm Associates.
David Blaha, vice president of John E. Harms Jr. and Associates, a Pasadena planning and engineering firm developing the land, said 16 acres will be donated for a new school and 80 acres for open space. Recreation facilities also will be built, he said.
Blaha said the partnership is planning to build 200 to 270 single-family detached homes, 180 to 260 single-family attached homes (including town houses) and 300 to 350 multifamily homes, including apartments.
The development cannot exceed 752 homes, he said.
Blaha said Litty plans to extend Riedel Road, which ends in Crofton Village, through the development, exiting at Route 3. Once Route 3 is expanded into a highway, he said, an interchange would be built for access into Crofton Farms.
"The county is encouraging PUDs," Blaha said. "It gives us an opportunity to plan for a larger, controlled area, but it gives the county more control over what happens."
Residents who live nearby do not want to see a planned-unit development built. They said they want the developers held to the way the land is currently zoned, which would limit development to two homes per acre on most of the land.
Paul McHugh, who lives on seven acres off St. Stephens Church Road, said a PUD would render the comprehensive 1988 rezoning plan useless.
"It would waste taxpayer's money spent trying to rationally control this growth through the 1988 zoning plan," he wrote in a letter to the county Office of Zoning.
He and other residents said that a planned-unit development would destroy the low-density zoning the area enjoys.
"Everybody knows how crowded Crofton is," Sharon Gertz, who also lives on St. Stephens Church, said. "We don't want them to jump across the road."
McHugh said the area is used by ducks, blackbirds, Canada geese and doves migrating south. Building the development would destroy their habitat, he said.
A new date for a hearing on the proposed development has not been set.