For the third time in a year, a developer with property next to the northern end of U.S. 29 in Ellicott City is petitioning the county Zoning Board to allow another use on office/research-zoned property.
This time, Howard Health Park Associates Limited Partnership is requesting permission to build a golf training and recreation center while keeping the planned office/research zoning.
Last fall, other petitioners asked the board to permit apartmentson one nearby lot and warehouse-sized stores on another.
The partnership last week petitioned for a zoning regulation change that would allow golf centers on office/research property in the county. The developer owns 13.3 acres of such land between the end of Town & Country Boulevard and U.S. 29.
A golf center could include a golf course with short fairways, small greens, supporting buildings and a restaurant. Such a center could be built on parcels ranging from five to 20 acres.
County planning director Joseph Rutter said the developerhad inquired about building a golf training facility before filing the petition.
"It's not a typical miniature golf course with the clowns and with the windmills," Rutter said. "It's a training course where you practice putting and practice driving."
What will make evaluating the request difficult, Rutter said, is that the use will haveto be appropriate for all office-research zoned parcels in the county. Rutter said he couldn't say whether his staff would recommend the regulation change, but he believes the idea of finding interim uses for difficult-to-develop office/research properties is a good one.
Rutter said the golf center use would not require a great deal of infrastructure, such as sewer and water lines. That would make it easy to convert to more intensive office/research uses, such as office buildings, when the market improves.
In contrast, two petitions filed last fall for outright zoning changes in the same belt of office/research zoning "would basically preclude office use," Rutter said.
One of those rezonings, requested by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., would allow a 119,500-square-foot department store and a 132,500-square-foot wholesale buying club on 54 acres south of the Howard Health Park site.
Rutter's staff and the county Planning Board recommended that Wal-Mart's petition be rejected. The Zoning Board is scheduled to hear a ninth night of testimony Tuesday on the petition.
The other petition, filed by Baltimore-based Henry J. Knott Development Co., sought residential zoning that would have allowed about 1,000 apartments.
The developer, who hoped to develop between 500 and 600 apartments, put the petition on hold in January. A week later, the County Council passed an adequate facilities law that a Knott project manager said could delay the apartment plans for years.