It is a rare pastoral scene in Ellicott City: clumps of woods separated by meadows, Holsteins grazing near a creek.
Amid this isolatedsetting is what exists so far of an ambitious office park project: five one-story office buildings and a bank line up behind a stand of trees next to the park's only access road. A squat building housing a child care center is nearby.
On the undeveloped far corner of the park, a large metal "ROAD CLOSED" sign marks the end of a half-mile stretch of gravel-strewn blacktop called Route 100. For now, it goes nowhere, representing years of negotiation, millions of dollars in investments, and disappointment for county developers.
The developer of that secluded property, Patrick McCuan, is one of several people who invested in the Route 100 project, either by agreeing to pay for parts of the road -- as McCuan did -- or by donating or trading land to the state -- deals made to avoid buying the land using the state's costly and complicated condemnation procedure.
But with the Route 100 project postponed indefinitely, these developers now wonder when the road will be built and how much the delay will affect their projects and cost them in property taxes, loan payments and lost business.
McCuan, who is sinking $3 million into his one-mile portion next to the Columbia 100 Office Research Park, stopped his construction crews last fall, leaving a half-mile of the road unpaved.
That was when the state Department ofTransportation, citing unexpected drops in vehicle title taxes, stopped work on the rest of Route 100 between I-95 in Jessup and Route 29in Ellicott City.
While McCuan downplays the road's effect on thedevelopment of his property, others in the commercial real estate community say it is in a vulnerable area without the access the highwaywould provide.
For McCuan and three other developers, that accesswas among their projects' main selling points.
Lack of access is likely to compound McCuan's mounting financial troubles, which led toa court order Monday tying up his interest in 14 development partnerships and associations to pay back more than $11 million in loans. (See accompanying story.)
McCuan would not say whether there was a link between his expenditures on Route 100 and his financial problems and said his attorneys had advised him not to comment on the case.
Another development linked to Route 100 is the 55-acre 103/29 Limited Partnership, bordered by Route 29, Route 100, Montgomery Road and Long Gate Parkway.
Developer Robert Moxley said he expects the Route 100 delays to cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, taxes and interest on the property if one part of the road project, the intersection of Route 100 and Route 29, is delayed for even a year.
He said he had planned to begin design this year of an integrated residential, commercial and office complex, but has put the project on hold until the State Highway Administration signs contractsfor construction of the planned interchange.
Plans called for Moxley's project to be built along with the intersection, which SHA officials say would take two or three years to complete after $24.3 million becomes available.
Construction of the residential, commercial and office segments were supposed to dovetail, but Moxley said the delay may force him to build the residential and commercial sections piecemeal, to cover carrying costs.
Without Route 100, those portions will have to use existing access to Montgomery Road and its heavilycongested intersection at Route 29.
On one side of the property is a part of the Route 100 project that will go ahead with or without the SHA.
Moxley and his cousin, James Moxley Jr., through several partnerships and the Security Development Corp., have agreed to buildLong Gate Parkway, a six-lane connector that will serve as access toRoute 100 and Route 29 for south Ellicott City, and trade parcels oftheir land for unused SHA right-of-way.
James Moxley said architects last week began working on designs for the road, which he estimates will cost between $300,000 and $400,000.
"We're going to build it and be done with it," he said, adding that it could be completed this year.
McCuan, of McCuan Development Group, said that were it not for the SHA reneging on its commitment to connect Route 100 to hisproperty, his one-mile, two-lane portion of the road could have beencompleted by July.
He says although the seven office buildings hehad planned to develop this year were put on hold because of the sagging office market, he had hoped the Route 100 interchange at Route 29 and the road connecting to his segment -- which would dramatically improve access to the park -- would be built by the time the market rebounds.
About 50 acres of the 108-acre park are left to be sold to other developers.
McCuan blames former County Executive M. Elizabeth Bobo for delaying the road work and costing county residents about $2 million in taxes that businesses occupying the offices would bepaying.