The county has given a Glen Burnie developer permission to build 722homes in Gambrills, but it may be years before anybody moves in.
The developer, Ernest J. Litty, must submit final plans for roads, sewers and water mains to the county and wait until the Patuxent Waste Water Treatment Plant is expanded. Right now, there is not enough sewer space to handle even one home in the development, county officialssay.
But the approval -- which rejected many arguments made by residents who opposed the project -- allows Litty to go forward with plans for Crofton Farms.
"I thought it was a good project," said David Blaha, vice president of John E. Harms Jr. and Associates, an engineering firm representing Litty. "It deserved to be approved."
Residents, however, said yesterday they plan to hire a lawyer and appeal the decision. "We're going to have to spend a lot of money," said Paul McHugh, who lives on St. Stephens Church Road. "We're dealing with major developers here."
Litty, president of Leimbach Development Inc.,also must meet numerous conditions set by the county, most of which he already had accepted.
Crofton Farms sits on 221 acres off Route3, opposite Waugh Chapel Road, just south of St. Stephens Church Road. About 16 acres will be designated for a new school, ball fields and tennis courts, and a day care center may be built.
The conditions Administrative Hearing Officer Roger Perkins spelled out in his 19-page ruling include limiting heights of buildings to 40 feet and keeping to 40 the number of homes allowed on a parcel along St. Stephens Church Road.
Residents were particularly concerned about that parcel, arguing that developing it would create an incompatible transition to the rural character of their community. They wanted Perkins to exclude that parcel from the planned unit development, which allows homes to be built in high-density clusters.
Perkins wouldn't go thatfar, but he said, "Development of (the parcel) must be done in a manner compatible with surrounding low-density and rural residential development."
Blaha said he would prefer to build more than 40 homes in that parcel and would like buildings to be built up to 45 feet high. But he said Perkins' decision "sounds like a reasonable compromise."
Another community fear was eased by Perkins, who said there should not be a direct road access from that parcel onto St. Stephens Church Road. Residents were afraid of the increase in traffic from people cutting through their community trying to avoid Route 3.
But inmaking his ruling, Perkins dismissed many of the arguments by Gambrills and Crofton residents, who testified for two days against the project.
They said the developer should be required to adhere to regulations enacted in 1989 during the county's comprehensive rezoning and be denied a special exception to build the planned unit development.
The neighbors said they are worried that a PUD will cause traffic backups on Routes 3 and 424 and say the area would be less crowded without the PUD.
But Perkins agreed with Litty that a PUD would create a more unified project. "Development of the applicant's propertyinto separate subdivisions would have a greater negative impact on existing properties to the north and east," he wrote.
Said Blaha, "Under a PUD, the county has much more control and leverage on developers to see a higher quality of development. In the long run, I think the residents will be happy it was developed as a PUD then done piecemeal."
But McHugh said a PUD will destroy the wildlife at the site. He said he blamed the County Council for allowing a PUD on the landby special exception when it approved comprehensive rezoning in 1989.
He said development in the area is too dense and complained about a neighboring group of town houses. "They are awful looking," he said. "There is no open space, no space for wildlife, no place for kids. . . . You kill places for wildlife and they won't come here anymore."
Perkins also rejected arguments that 9,000 housing units already are planned for Crofton and many are empty.
The hearing officer said it is not up to him to determine whether people will move into the new homes. "The County Council, in zoning this property, . . . hasalready determined the need for residential units."
Other restrictions imposed by the county on developers include:
* A minimum of 30 percent of the dwellings must be single-family detached homes.
* The Ganter home, a historic house that sits in the middle of the development site, must be preserved and can be moved only with permission from the Office of Planning and Zoning. The developers say the house is unsafe and wanted to move it to a nearby church property.
* A 50-foot green buffer must be provided along both sides of Reidel Road, along St. Stephens Church Road and a future service road. A 100-foot buffer must be provided along Route 3.