The county planning board yesterday endorsed a third major change toColumbia's master development plan, one that would allow 500 more apartments and town houses in Town Center.
If approved by the countyzoning board, the revised plan also will add 89 acres to the unincorporated city and rezone commercial tracts to allow 1,600 more residential units in Long Reach village.
Following the county planning staff's recommendation, the planning board favored making only one small change in the Rouse Co.'s menu of plan alterations.
The Rouse Co. wanted to create a 2.3-acre employment center north of Old Montgomery Road in a section it intends to annex, but the staff recommends that the land remain open space, inpart because it surrounds an existing home.
The changes were opposed by growth-control advocate Susan Gray, who argued that the current road network was designed for Columbia's existing land-use plan.
But the Rouse Co., backed by the county planning staff, responded that while the changes would cause some shifts in traffic, they would not be significant and could even improve traffic.
The plan is designed in part to realize the Rouse Co.'s desire to give Town Center a more urban character. In theory, more peopleliving in Town Center will result in more night life, which will attract more business for restaurants and bars downtown.
The plan could increase the city's population by 4,000 residents beyond the 100,000 peak it is expected to reach under existing zoning. Its 1990 population was 75,000. Land in the new town area, which the Rouse Co. began buying in the 1960s and has been gradually selling to developers, would increase to 14,136 acres.
In another rezoning case, the board recommended changing 27 acres of light industrial property to commercial zoning to make way for a neighborhood shopping center on the site of the defunct FreestateRaceway in North Laurel.
The county planning staff recommended waiting until the comprehensive rezoning next year. But Columbia attorney David Carney, who represents Freestate Associates Limited Partnership, said there was no reason to delay because the change was consistent with the county's 20-year land-use plan.
William Waff of Savage, one of three members of a citizens' committee advising the project, said area residents preferred a much-needed shopping center over adding to the glut of office-warehouse property in the area.
"Traffic in Laurel is now so bad that most residents of Savage no longer make the trip," and would welcome a closer place to shop, Waff said.