The county Zoning Board last Thursday rejected an appeal by the Rouse Co., which had asked it to reconsider a proposal for up to 300 apartments on 12 acres in Columbia's Town Center. But the board left openthe possibility of hearing the case again at a later date.
The board refused to allow the change from the property's current designation as employment center, saying residents of apartments or town houses might be disturbed by noise from the Merriweather Post Pavilion. The decision has been criticized by community leaders and Rouse Co. planners, who have long maintained that downtown Columbia would be enlivened by more high-density residential development.
Two members of the County Council, which sits as the Zoning Board, dissented on the grounds that the board's March 17 decision to denythe land-use change was arbitrary and capricious.
Board Chairman C. Vernon Gray, an eastern Columbia Democrat, and Charles C. Feaga, awest county Republican, wrote that the Rouse Co. was denied a chanceto address board members' concerns about noise from the pavilion.
Feaga voted with the majority, but Gray dissented from the original opinion.
"We had no testimony really to disapprove that with the noise levels. We had no documented noise levels," Feaga said.
"Obviously, it does have a severe negative impact on our achievement goalson low- and moderate-income housing," said Gray of the decision.
But Paul Farragut, who urged other board members to deny the change, has argued that such housing could be built elsewhere in Town Center without being disturbed by the pavilion.
The opinion, signed by board members Farragut, Shane Pendergrass and Darrel Drown, pointed outthat the request could be resubmitted at any time.
Rouse also could appeal the decision to county Circuit Court.
Rouse Co. executives could not be reached for comment on their plans.