MANCHESTER — Six months ago, Mount Airy developer Henry L. Blevins was ready to pack up his sketches, studies and conceptual plans and go home.
But, after nearly four years of nudging, redrawing and spending, Blevinslast month won preliminary approval for his 164-unit Blevins' Claim housing development.
"I hope the major problems and town delays are behind us now," hesaid last week. "If the delays were much longer, it would have been 'Adios.' "
Since late 1988, Blevins has had an option to purchase the 62-acre Dell property for $1.35 million. And while he has until July to exercise that option, he expects to settle on the property soon.
"We're working on the final plans now," he said. "After nearly four years, things are finally starting to look good up there."
InJune, Blevins was almost ready to pull out of the deal, saying, "It's getting to a point where you have to take your first loss."
The project originally was planned to include 266 homes -- some single-family, some town houses and some "quadplexes" -- on the rolling farmland along Bachman Road.
But opposition from residents of two neighboring developments -- Whispering Valley and Holland Hills -- in 1990 forced Blevins to scale down the development.
The development, which Blevins had expected to be finished by now, will feature homes in the $100,000 to $125,000 range, far higher than the $65,000 price taghe wanted to place on the town houses and quadplexes.
Blevins said he was trying to put lower-priced starter homes on the market in Manchester, saying he sees a need for that in northern Maryland. Housing prices four miles north -- in Pennsylvania -- are generally $20,000to $30,000 cheaper.
"The neighbors told us that they definitely didn't want that," Blevins said.
Neighbors argued the planned town houses and quadplexes would lower property values. Homes in Whispering Valley and Holland Hills recently have sold for about $90,000.
Standing in the way of final approval are two studies to determine howmuch water a well on the property will provide and how effective a retaining wall will be to prevent erosion.
"The next steps should be fairly easy," Blevins said.
He said he hopes to have homes by the end of next year where cornfields now stand.
Town officials for years have been pushing residential development, partially to pay forthe town's $11 million sewage treatment plant expansion.
Indeed, the town's coffers would see an additional $28,000 a year in propertytax revenue, nearly $200,000 in sewer system connection fees, and more than $79,200 a year in sewage usage fees.
Town officials are expected to review Blevins' final plans during the next two months.
Blevins' Claim isn't the only new housing game in town.
About 250 homes are being built in the 250-acre Manchester Farms development along Southwestern Boulevard, and another 40-home development is in theplanning stages.