In one breath, county planning officials told Odenton business leaders that West County, overburdened with traffic and schoolchildren, isundergoing a development boom like nothing they have seen before.
In the next breath, those same officials tried to reassure skeptical developers that their projects, especially in the Town Center area, will not be held up in a tangle of bureaucratic red tape.
The seeming contradiction is all part of a county plan to control development in greater Odenton, the last of the county's three town centers. An estimated 15,000 new homes are projected for the area by 2000.
"The county has to sit down with developers and hopefully, through a combined effort, have a plan for the entire area that we feel meets the community's and the developer's needs," said Shep Tullier, a comprehensive planning administrator for Anne Arundel County.
"It is going to take a real consensus," said Tullier, speaking yesterday at a meeting with the West Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce.
For four hours, planning officials tried to outline the county's plan for Odenton's future.
But they met with some of the same opposition yesterday that surfaced when they first proposed a growth management plan to reduce the construction allowed in the Town Center -- a commercial development planned for 218 acres near routes 175 and 32.
The law, passed by the County Council last October, requires developers to set aside 25 percent of their lots as green space and limits buildings to eight stories.
"I think the county is getting too involved in what I want to do with my property," said Warren E. Halle, a Silver Spring-based developer who owns 90 acres of Town Center land and is building Seven Oaks, a 4,700-unit development, across the streetfrom it.
"The growth management plan does not tell you what to build," countered Bruce Galloway, a consultant hired by the county to oversee the development of Town Center.
"Zoning tells you what to build. The design concept tells you what we would like to see emphasized in Town Center. You use your creativity to see how you can meet those objectives."
County planners say they want to avoid another Parole, frequently cited as the county's worst example of suburban sprawl. "We feel that if we can solve Parole, we can solve any planning problem in the whole world," said county planner Kathy Koch.
But Odenton is booming, and not only from three major planned unit developments -- Seven Oaks, Piney Orchard and Russett Center -- already underconstruction.
Thirty-one major subdivisions have been approved inWest County since 1988, and 40 more are under review. These projectsinclude 2,500 housing units either built or under construction and another 2,500 planned. The PUDs are to include a separate 12,000 units.
"This is the greatest inventory of lots I have ever seen," said Frank Ward, a county planner with 15 years of experience, who is in charge of subdivisions. "I'm out of breath describing all the activity."
Galloway said the county will alter its site plan reviews in the next few months to speed approval of Town Center projects.
Builders will submit informal plans to the county, a preliminary sketch ofthe developments.The sketches will go before a community design board of planners, representatives from state agencies and community residents.
That way, major concerns can be haggled over early in the process. "We'll fight a little, but we'll fight early," Galloway said.
And getting state officials involved in the early proposal stagesmeans developer won't have to run around to various agencies "getting different answers from different people," he said.