The future of 221 acres in Gambrills was debated yesterday by developers who want to build 750 homes and by residents who oppose the plan.
Testifying before a county zoning official, both sides argued the merits of the proposed planned unit development, which would bring a mixture of town houses, single-family homes and apartments to the site off Route 3.
Ernest J. Litty Jr., president of Leimbach Development Inc., the primary developer, wants a special exception to build a planned unit development, which requires higher-density zoning.
Residents want builders to adhere to zoning regulations that were enacted in 1989 during the county's comprehensive rezoning. That way, the residents say, the
character of the surrounding communities can be preserved.
Testimony will resume Jan. 30.
Opponents of the plan streamed to the microphone most of the day, first asking questions and then readingstatements on how their quiet enclave of farmland would be ruined byhigh-density development.
"Granting a PUD would give them the flexibility to do whatever he wants to in this area," said Thomas Watt, who lives on St.Stephens Church Road near the proposed development.
Litty said he won't be able to build any more homes under a PUD designation than under regular zoning, but would be able to designate a school site and preserve more land as open space.
Rich Josepheson, a county planner working on the project, agreed. "We feel the concept of this plan meets the requirements for a zoning ordinance for a PUD," he said. "We recommend a conditional approval."
But Josephson wants Administrative Hearing Officer Roger Perkins to attach several conditions to his ruling:
* That lots abutting other developments be built to match those zoning regulations to lessen the impact of new homes on older neighborhoods;
* That the developers be required to build ball fields and parks;
* That the developers sign qualityassurance agreements pertaining to how homes are built and how they look.
But residents said building a PUD renders the comprehensive rezoning plan useless.
"We're not all lawyers," said Bill Young, a St. Eva Lane resident. "When we looked at this in 1989, the most homes we saw was one home per half acre. (The county) told us there would be no sewer and they had no plans on building one."
But Josepheson said the land was rezoned to allow more development in 1989 and that change allowed PUDs if developers could prove they fit into the county's general development plan.
"The zoning is there," he said. "There is an incentive and people want to develop it. That's what happens."
The residents said they were mainly concerned about the high-density zoning allowed under a PUD. They said the result -- especially with one particular lot bordering St. Stephens Church Road -- would mean jamming two incompatible communities together, bringing property values down.
"This type of project would devalue the entire area," said Thomas Watt, who lives on St. Stephens Church Road. "What agreat loss to Anne Arundel County."
Litty argued that if each developer adhered to the zoning regulations, building would be haphazard and the number of new homes would not justify donating land for a school.