Commercial zoning requested for the Waverly Woods II project in Marriottsville may be intended to fool the Zoning Board into allowing the developer to build more homes, said a real estate developer who lives near the proposed 683-acre development.
"Just because you build it, doesn't mean they'll come," William Eitze, financial vice president for Carl M. Freeman Associates Inc. of Potomac, told the Zoning Board Wednesday night.
Office and other commercial space is one component of the massive project under consideration by the County Council members, sitting as the Zoning Board.
The package of zoning changes also would allow development of an 8.5-acre shopping center and 937 houses and apartments around an 18-hole public golf course.
Mr. Eitze, who lives in the Allenford subdivision about three-quarters of a mile from the Waverly Woods site, read from an analysis of the county's office market done by the projects' own expert witness.
The Legg-Mason Realty Group study said there is a 432-year supply of office-zoned land in Ellicott City, which Mr. Eitze said he thought a bit pessimistic, even though it supported his argument.
The report was prepared in July by Legg-Mason's Joseph Cronyn for another rezoning petition.
That petition, for property at U.S. Route 29 and Route 103 in Ellicott City, seeks to scrap office and residential zoning in favor of zoning that would allow a large shopping center.
Part of the Waverly petition seeks the opposite, and would create more more land for office use. Over about 30 years, the development plan calls for building about 1.7 million square feet of office or other commercial space.
"Why on God's green earth would a developer include an element . . . that would be a financial disaster?" Mr. Eitze asked.
The answer, he said, is that the commercial zoning makes the project appear to be a mixed-use development.
Such a zoning designation would be in keeping with the county's 1990 General Plan for growth, presumably improving the project's chances for approval.
Mr. Eitze said that if he were the developer, he would come back to the Zoning Board in 15 years, asking to change the 372 acres of commercial land to residential. Using the average density of 6.4 units per acre, Mr. Eitze calculated that converting that land could allow the construction of an additional 832 homes at the site.
Ronald Spahn, one of two attorneys representing developer Donald Reuwer and the property's owners, questioned Mr. Eitze's qualifications during cross-examination.
"You don't study land development, do you?" Mr. Spahn asked, referring to the witness' education.
Mr. Eitze responded that he had taken real estate and land-use courses in law school and that he studies market trends as an officer of a company that has developed over 20,000 apartments and owns and develops property in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware.
In his testimony, Mr. Eitze noted that the Legg-Mason report says the growth in county employment and office space use over the next 20 years will be in an area bounded by Interstate 95, Route32, Route 175 and Columbia's Town Center, miles from the Waverly Woods site in the northeastern tip of Howard.
"It will be very difficult to entice employment growth over here without having some kind of mass transportation corridor" running along Interstate 70, Mr. Eitze said.
Also testifying against the project Wednesday was resident Dave Witt, who argued that there was no legal basis for the 9zoning changes.
If board members grant the zoning change, however, Mr. Witt urged them to "please set some serious conditions on this."