Developers want to rezone 26 acres for more shops at Freestate

September 16, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Developers of a shopping center on the old Freestate Raceway site in North Laurel plan to ask for a rezoning of 26 acres to make room for more retail tenants on the site.

The property owner, Freestate Associates Limited Partnership,

will request the change as part of the comprehensive rezoning process of the eastern county.

The rezoning of the land, which is currently zoned for industrial use, would allow the developer to go ahead with plans to rent space to a home products discount center, a toy store, a movie theater and a sports complex.

Plans call for the a 23.7 acre portion of the 122-acre Freestate property to be developed into a neighborhood shopping center with a grocery store, banks and restaurants.

The property, formerly a harness race track, is owned by Skopbank, a Finland-based bank. It is being developed by the Sanford Companies, based in Silver Spring.

Negotiations with prospective tenants led the developers to ask for a zoning change to allow more retail uses at the project.

"The nature of retailing has changed," said John Breitenberg, the attorney representing the developer. "They want larger spaces.

Instead of 40,000 square feet, some want 100,000 square feet."

With the demands for space by tenants, developers soon realized that they could not accommodate all retailers on the 23.7-acre parcel in the center of the property.

To solve the dilemma, developer Bruce Jaffe plans to request that 16 acres south of Freestate Drive be rezoned to allow the construction of a home discount store and a toy store. They will also request the rezoning of 10 acres north of Gorman Road to accommodate a multiplex theater and a sports complex, Mr. Breitenberg said.

Developers will submit the requests as part of the county's comprehensive rezoning of the east. The first public hearings before the Planning Board and the Zoning Board will be scheduled later this fall.

"The key to all this is the citizens' support," Mr. Breitenberg said. "If the community doesn't want it, we're not going to do it."

At a Savage Community Association board meeting last week, members gave generally favorable reviews to the the developer's planned rezoning requests and predicted that the community will support the changes.

"My sense is that the community would probably be in favor of more retail and less warehousing," said board member Ellen Waff. Residents will have an opportunity to hear more about the proposed zoning changes at a General association meeting on Sept. 29.

Board members praised the developers for working closely with the community and responding to residents' concerns throughout the planning process.

For example, the community had expressed concern over the amount of commercial and warehouse space originally planned for the property. The developers responded by submitting plans for a shopping center and obtained approval in January for the rezoning of 23.7 acres to retail.

In general, residents tired of driving to Laurel for their shopping needs are looking forward to the convenience of neighborhood shopping. Developers also circulated a survey among the community to find out what stores and businesses they'd like to see in the area.

Construction began two weeks ago on the infrastructure of the property and will be completed in about a year, said Mr. Jaffe. This $4 million preliminary phase of the project includes work on utilities, storm water management, leveling, road work and landscaping. Once the infrastructure work is completed the tenants will begin construction on their buildings.

Development plans call for the widening of Gorman Road from two lanes to four lanes through the Freestate property and the addition of a traffic light at U.S. 1 and Gorman Road.

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