The county Planning Board endorsed plans for a 65-acre subdivision surrounded by Harper's Choice village. But the board stopped short of giving its recommendation to the County Council on the zoning needed for the development.
The decision came after four hours of testimony yesterday on Woodlot, a proposed development by Woodlot Enterprises Inc. The subdivision would be on what is known as the Carroll property, off Harper's Farm Road between the Hobbit's Glen and Swansfield neighborhoods.
"I think we've made some progress. They've made a very professional presentation, but there were a lot of holes in it," said Robert Cameron, a former Rouse Co. vice president who lives in Hobbit's Glen.
Cameron is a member of Citizens for Preserving the Harper's Choice Woodlands, which filled the small meeting room with about 40 opponents of the rezoning. The group has also collected 400 signatures on a petition against the rezoning.
The board recommended that one of the two access roads, which several residents testified against, be kept closed, and that development be less dense in the area closest to the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area.
Harper's Choice village association board member Laura Waters testified that her board also opposed the rezoning.
In a 3-0 vote, Planning Board members sent the council -- which also sits as the Zoning Board -- its conditional approval of plans to build 32 town homes and 95 detached houses on quarter-acre and fifth-acre lots.
Board members were split, 2-1, however, on the legal basis for changing the land, which is zoned "rural" for three-acre lots, to zoning allowing smaller lots and town homes.
Members Joan Lancos and Nelson Fenwick voted to recommend granting the rezoning on the basis of a mistake in the 1985 comprehensive rezoning. Temporary Chairman Dale Schumacher said there was not enough evidence to prove that.
Because members Kay Partridge and William Manning were absent, and three votes are required for an official zoning recommendation, the case will be forwarded to the Zoning Board as a 2-1 vote for granting the petition.
The county Department of Planning and Zoning's staff report recommended approval of the rezoning on the basis of the mistake in zoning.
Opponents of the project listed a number of objections, including increased traffic threatening their children's safety, lowered property values and the impact on migratory tropical birds' nesting.
"You are asking us to put our children at risk for the expediency of this development," said Mary Streb, a member of the opposition group's steering committee.
Woodlot's traffic expert, Lee Cunningham, testified that work the developer would be required to make under the county's adequate facilities law would improve the roads in the area. But Streb said her group will hire its own traffic expert to dispute the claim that development wouldn't make traffic worse.
Now that the petition has been heard by the Planning Board, the Zoning Board will schedule a hearing and make the final decision on rezoning.