The uneasy calm between Howard County builders and slow-growth advocates ended abruptly this week when western Ellicott City residents learned of plans to build a residential, commercial and golfing villagealong Marriottsville Road and Interstate 70.
The 682-acre site, just east of the county landfill, would be almost evenly split betweenhousing and business uses.
The residential area -- 937 units on 302 acres -- would be about one-third the size of the Columbia village of Harper's Choice. Developers hope the 372-acre business portion would be used as headquartersfor major corporations.
A championship, 18-hole public golf course would wend around the homes and businesses.
If the county agreesto change the zoning from rural -- one home per three acres -- to the kind of mixed usages chief developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr. desires, the project would be built over the next two decades. Construction would begin in about 2 1/2 years.
The housing would range from condominiums that in today's market would sell for about $115,000 to homescosting $500,000. All homes and businesses would reflect 18th-century Georgian and Adam architectural styles.
Reuwer said everything would be built to blend with historic Waverly Mansion, built around 1760. The county-owned manor house is in the middle of the development.It was once owned by John Eager Howard, the Revolutionary War hero and former governor for whom the county is named.
Originally called"The Mistake," the home was renamed Waverly in the early 19th century after a popular 1814 novel of that name by Sir Walter Scott.
Reuwer said Waverly Woods -- the name he gave the project -- is "exciting" and "the most thoroughly planned zoning proposal ever to come downthe pike."
Market Square resident Alexander L. Wolfe finds the proposal exciting in a different way. He calls it an "incompatible landuse, a sword thrust at the edge of the greenbelt" that the county government seeks to preserve in the heart of Howard.
Wolfe, vice president of the Market Square South Community Association, learned of the project in a letter he and 500 other homeowners received last weekfrom one of the three Waverly property owners. The letter invited them to a meeting at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Waverly Elementary School.
Reuwer initially planned to bring the proposal before the Planning Board on Tuesday. He said he asked for a delay until Sept. 3 to consider community suggestions coming out of tomorrow's meeting.
In hisletter to residents last week, psychiatrist Irving J. Taylor said golf course architect Arthur Hills and planner Fred Jarvis would be present at the meeting to talk about the plan.
"We carefully designedthis project so it will enhance neighborhood property values," Taylor wrote. He added that he wanted to "solicit (residents') opinions asto how to make the project even better."
The approximately 60 homes for sale in neighborhoods near the Waverly area range from $135,000 to $400,000.
The initial reaction of most residents has been rejection of least a portion of the developers' ideas. By the end of last week, an aide to County Councilman Darrel Drown, R-2nd, was taking more than 24 calls a day, all opposed to the project. The developmentis located in Drown's district.
Drown, who sent out 100 letters last week advising residents that the Planning Board would conduct a hearing on Reuwer's proposal, is forbidden by council bylaws from discussing the case until after the board makes a decision. Council members also sit as the Zoning Board. All petitions for rezoning must first go to the Planning Board.
Wolfe and members of his association are "adamantly opposed" to making the area west of them a "mixed-use center."
Although the county designated that area as a mixed-use center in the 1990 General Plan, the term "mixed use" was never defined, Wolfe said. The county is now having a task force determine what a mixed-use development would look like.
"To have this proposal now is ludicrous," Wolfe said. "The task force won't even make its reportfor another six months. How can they go ahead with (the Waverly proposal) when they don't even know what the definition is?"
Civic activist Angela Beltram, who lost her council and zoning board seat to Drown last November, agrees.
"The county should not let mixed use be formulated by a developer," she said. "That decision should be madeby the Zoning Board after receiving advice from the planning department and holding public hearings."
Reuwer says his group's definition of mixed use is "infinitely less intense" than the General Plan proposal, which suggests grouping civic buildings in a business district with apartments above shops.
As for concerns about traffic congestion and school overcrowding, Reuwer said he expects an adequate facilities ordinance that would cure those problems to be in place long before construction begins.