Community fears fate of nearby farmland Rezoning could bring businesses, housing to area NORTH LAUREL/SAVAGE

November 13, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

The 820-acre parcel of farmland at routes 29 and 216 in North Laurel has served as a development buffer and scenic backdrop for residents of the Cherry Tree Farm housing development and surrounding communities.

But they're worried that the county's plans for the property in the proposed comprehensive rezoning of the east will spoil the rural setting that attracted them to the area.

A new comprehensive plan, which must be approved by the County Council, will serve as a guide for land use and development for much of the next decade. The county adopted a new comprehensive map for western Howard on Sept. 19.

The parcel is one of six sites being proposed as a new "mixed use" zoning category, which will allow a combination of residential, commercial and open space uses.

Area residents also are concerned about another smaller parcel east of Route 29 and south of Route 216, designated for mixed use development.

Cherry Tree Farm residents have circulated petitions opposing the zoning and have initiated a letter-writing and telephone campaign to make zoning officials and County Council members aware of their concerns.

They also plan to testify against the proposed rezoning at hearings before the Planning Board beginning Nov. 17, telling board members that the new mixed use development will bring unmanageable traffic congestion to the area and overcrowding to the schools.

"We moved out to this area to get away from that," said Cherry Tree Farm resident Cathy Brown.

Last week on Election Day, residents distributed fliers at Hammond Elementary School predicting the results of mixed use zoning. Possible changes include the addition of 3,000 to 11,000 new households on the Iager farm property, commercial development supporting 6,600 jobs, and increased crime, according to the informational pamphlets.

"I really don't think the people of Howard County want to take that course," said Ben H. Adkins Jr., another Cherry Tree Farms resident. "I'm not opposed to growth and development, I'd just like to see it done in a more orderly fashion."

County planners say the purpose of having a mixed use district is to make effective use of the few remaining large tracts of undeveloped land in the eastern portion of the county.

"We see them as being the best big pieces to be developed," said Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning. "And from an economic development standpoint we'd like to see them be used optimally."

The tract of farmland at routes 216 and 29 has three owners and all have expressed an interest in the mixed use zoning category, Ms. McLaughlin said.

She said that site and another large parcel at Route 216 and Interstate 95 probably won't be developed for another 10 years, due to extensive improvements required on Route 216.

In addition, Ms. McLaughlin said that the Adequate Facilities Ordinance, passed in April, requires developers to pass certain tests to ensure that roads and schools can support new development.

But the concept of delayed development doesn't diminish the concerns of residents envisioning never-ending gridlock on Route 29.

"People moved to Howard County because of its semirural setting and this is in direct opposition to that," Mr. Adkins said.

He also questioned the suitability of the property at routes 216 and 29 as a site that would allow people to live and work in the same area.

"A mixed use district should be more in line with an industrial setting, closer to jobs and adequate transportation," Mr. Adkins said.

Some residents are also concerned about the potential disparity between the single-family home development of Cherry Tree Farms and new housing in the proposed district.

"Mixed use just gives the developer carte blanche," said resident Mary Lisa Pittroff. "When you have $300,000 and $400,000 houses I don't think you want subsidized housing knocking on your back door."

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