Woodlot developer, neighbors agree on changes Accord will save trees, cut access

October 07, 1992|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

The developer of a heavily wooded, 66-acre property in the middle of the Harper's Choice has agreed to alter plans for the project so more trees are preserved and one of two entrance ways eliminated.

The agreements came last week after negotiations with a group of residents of the Hobbit's Glen and Swansfield neighborhoods who had objected to the proposed residential development, called Woodlot.

Opponents had argued the residential project would damage a prime migratory bird forest. Also, some residents were concerned that an entrance would result in significant traffic noise and danger to children in Swansfield.

"The developer lost some lots and the residents didn't get every concession they wanted either. But everyone gained confidence in each other," said Richard B. Talkin, a Columbia lawyer hired by a group of residents calling themselves Citizens for Preserving the Harper's Choice Woodlands.

J. Thomas Scrivener, a county resident and one of the principals in the partnership that wants to develop the property, said the key changes in the agreement are:

* An entrance into the new neighborhood from Harvest Scene Road in Swansfield will be eliminated and the road will become a cul-de-sac instead. The change will eliminate traffic between the proposed development and Swansfield. Area residents had complained that the entrance would generate unwanted traffic and noise. But county planners had wanted the entrance to provide firefighters and rescue teams quicker access to some houses.

* Lots on the far end of the development, located close to Swansfield, will be increased from 8,000 square feet to about 12,000 square feet. The change makes the lots similar in size

to those in Swansfield and reduces the number of houses in the project from 122 to 127. An additional 1 1/2 acres of what is considered a sensitive wooded area used by migratory birds and other wildlife would be preserved by the change.

* Six lots near the woods will carry covenants prohibiting owners from cutting any trees on the rear 20-feet of the property.

* The elevation of the main entrance into the proposed project, which will be off Harper's Farm Road south of Rivendell Road, will be lowered and buffer plantings added. This should cut down on traffic noise and headlights bothering nearby residents, Mr. Scrivener said.

Altering the elevation of the entrance road was "a major sticking point" in the negotiations, Mr. Scrivener said.

He and his partner had balked at changing the road design because it would result in a "major expense," Mr. Scrivener said. He declined to cite an estimate of the additional cost, but said, "We decided we were willing to give them this to be happy with the plan."

While the agreements have residents of the two neighborhoods saying they feel more comfortable with the project, the developer still needs a rezoning of the property before construction can begin.

The County Council, which sits as the Zoning Board, must rule on whether to grant the zoning change, and has scheduled a second public hearing for Oct. 29 at 8 p.m.

Mr. Scrivener and J. P. Bolduc, the principals in Woodlot Enterprises Inc., are seeking zoning for the property that would allow construction of town houses and detached houses on lots of less than an acre. The land is zoned for agriculture or homes on three-acre lots.

The property, owned by heirs of the late Nina Carroll, is not part of Columbia but is almost surrounded by houses, town houses and condominiums in Harper's Choice.

The majority of the project would be detached houses, but the developers hope to also build 32 town houses. A report by Legg Mason Realty for the developer said houses in Woodlot could average about $248,000 in price.

While Citizens for Preserving the Harper's Choice Woodlands initially hoped either to block the project or significantly reduce the number of houses in order to preserve the woods, Mr. Talkin said opponents changed after "a realization set in that the property will develop" eventually.

"It was after that realization took hold that we sat down with the developer and came up with an agreement that respects the property's value to wildlife and allows the developer to build a quality project," he said.

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