Settlers head for Columbia's 10th and final village

Well-heeled pioneers drawn to landscaped wilds of River Hill

March 22, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff writer

Moving vans have joined dump trucks and cement mixers rumbling up and down tree-lined Trotter Road in Clarksville in recent weeks, signaling the beginning of the end of Columbia.

River Hill. the 10th and last village of Columbia, is now home to a handful of families with enough pioneering spirit - and money - to buy a house in the village's first neighborhood, Pheasant Ridge.

"It's a key event in Columbia's history - a little sad, but certainly exciting." said Alton J. Scavo, a vice president of Howard Research and Development, the Columbia development arm of the Rouse Co.

Jerry and Joanne Wagner packed up their house in Long Reach and shipped out Thursday night for their new half-acre next to the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area.

"It's more like out in the county, and out of the city suburbs," said Joanne Wagner, owner of Lakeview Delicatessen on Broken Land Parkway. "It's just a nice quiet place, it appears to be. We're backing up into a meadow where you can actually see wildlife, because we've seen deer and deer tracks."

That natural beauty was not lost on the Rouse Co., which is promoting the new village with sketches of a "nosy neighbor - a deer eating a sandwich - and a will be moving from another Columbia village, said Scavo.

The new village also is a departure from the concept under which Columbia's other villages were planned.

In keeping with Columbia's original plans and the character of the western county, set down in 1965, it will have more open space and fewer apartments and town homes than the other nine villages. In most Columbia villages, one-third of the homes are detached, single-family houses, as compared with the 75 percent planned for River Hill.

If things had gone HRD's way, the village would more closely resemble other villages, with an even mix of apartments, town homes and single-family houses.

HRD requested 90 acres of apartment or town home land for the village in 1986, but the zoning board granted only a third of that. That land, near the site of the village center in downtown Clarksville, will not be developed until 1994 or 1995, and Scavo said HRD planners have not decided what mix of apartments or town houses will be built on it.

As a result, few of the homes in River Hill will be what County Councilman C. Vernon Gray would consider affordable. Gray, a resident of Columbia since 1975, voted to approve HRD's request in 1986.

"I'm very supportive of the Columbia concept." Gray said last week. "We're talking about a community with a variety of incomes. ... I think that kind of balance has been lost in River Hill."

In Pheasant Ridge, homes under $200,000 are rare, and many are already sold, as attested to by Mark Builders, which sold all of its 12 homes in the development four hours after it began taking deposits in September.

The village will have about 2,400 houses and will be the least populous village after Town Center, which has 503 houses and apartments. It will be dwarfed by the villages of Long Reach and Hickory Ridge, which have about twice as many houses.

About 35 houses are under construction or built in the first section of Pheasant Ridge, formerly known as the Hobbs Farm, just east of Trotter Road and bordered on three sides by the environmental area. When it is finished, the section will have 158 houses.

The next phase of the development will be a segment of Pheasant Ridge on the west side of Trotter Road. That area will have houses for sale by this fall at the latest, Scavo said. The first houses in the Pointer's Run neighborhood, farther to the south and east, are expected to go on sale in the spring of 1993. The village should be completed in seven to eight years.

One major obstacle in the village's path is the delay in construction of the new Route 32 from Cedar Lane to Route 108. Without the road, county planners and growth-control advocates argue, the village will gridlock already congested roads in the area. Rouse is seeking approval of 883 single-family houses over seven years but plans to limit development to 626 houses until the road is built.

The road project is on hold indefinitely because of state budget constraints.

Scavo said he is hopeful, however, that state highway money will be available in time to keep River Hill development on track.

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