When then-County Executive Elizabeth Bobo steered her master 20-year development plan through the County Council last year, she left a key component, the concept of mixed-use centers, largely undefined.
Her administration designated specific areas for mixed-use centers and said they should bring together residential and commercial areas. Officials didn't say how.
Now there is a definition, albeit not an official one. Developer Donald Reuwer Jr. has proposed a plan for developing 682 acres of land at Interstate 70 and Marriottsville Road, just west of Ellicott City, in which he gives his vision of a mixed-use center.
The project, called Waverly Woods II, would include a top-flight 18-hole golf course, 937 homes, a 372-acre business area and a shopping center.
Neighbors of the site say the developer's plan is too grand. They have joined together in a group called CARE -- Citizens Allied for Rational Expansion -- and say they have collected at least 1,500 signatures from other county residents opposed to the plan. They say those signatures are on only one-fourth of the petitions that have been returned so far.
Today, CARE was to demonstrate against the proposal in front of the county government office building as the issue was being brought before the county's planning board. They plan to hold a second protest before the County Council meeting tonight.
"People have held the notion that in Howard County, the developer is king," said David Stough, chairman of CARE. "I firmly believe we can make a difference. This may be a multi-year type of fight to keep Howard County within reasonable limits."
Last year, Stough bought a home in the nearby Weatherburn development, a community of new single-family homes that sell for more than $250,000.
He said CARE has no problems with 90 single-family homes that are being built in the area, but that Reuwer's Waverly Woods project would overburden roads and the new school, which already is at capacity, and threaten the quality of life.
"This will seriously change the nature of the neighborhood from one of single-family homes to one with employment centers and shopping centers that will crowd the area," agreed Roger Hall, another member of the group.
CARE is demanding that the county reject the developer's request to rezone the land from its rural designation, which prohibits the proposed land uses.
Reuwer's GTW firm plans to build the project over the next two decades. It tried to gain the support of neighbors when it met with them in July and when it mailed a slick, colorful description of the proposal, which it says would be compatible with the area's 18th century character.
Officials of the administration of County Executive Charles I. Ecker said his office recently has received a flurry of calls from angered residents, but they pointed out some aspects of the proposal they felt were positive.
One official said the proposal fits the administration's view of a mixed-use concept in many ways. For one, the official said, it conserves land by grouping homes close together instead of having houses dotted on three-acre sites. Another advantage, the official said, was that it provides for business growth, which would result in tax revenues.
The county's zoning board, which consists of the five members of the County Council, will vote on the proposal.