Oak Tree development draws neighbor protests Nearby residents complain to board EAST COLUMBIA

November 24, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Owen Brown resident Sunil Misra was happy to see the old termite- and rodent-infested barn behind his house being torn down to make way for a single-family home development.

But now that the Flintfeet Lane resident has seen the shape the development is taking on an old farm in the Hopewell neighborhood, he says the barn might have been preferable.

"It's not that it's something horrid being built," said Mr. Misra. "It's just that it's so lopsided. The houses are so big and there's no attempt to build any barrier. They could have done a little better than this, looked out for residents' interests."

Mr. Misra and several of his neighbors presented their complaints about Centex Homes' Oak Tree development to the Owen Brown village board last week.

The residents say the homes being constructed interfere with their privacy because of their proximity and because they are being built on a higher land grade. The new homes also appear significantly larger than the existing homes and are out of character with the neighborhood, the residents say.

Mr. Misra said he believed the project is being built on an "out-parcel" -- a lot within Columbia's general boundaries that is not subject to Columbia Association lien fees or architectural requirements.

But the developer contends that impression is wrong. Before Crofton-based Centex Homes purchased the roughly 12-acre site, the company struck an agreement with CA to have the parcel incorporated into Columbia, making it subject to Columbia architectural requirements, plan reviews and lien fees, said Richard Kobylski, division president.

Out-parcels are scattered lots throughout Columbia that were already developed when the community was built or that were owned by farmers who wouldn't sell to The Rouse Co.

Centex Homes presented its plans to the Owen Brown village board and CA's board of directors for comments and to assure the development met requirements, Mr. Kobylski said. The boards had an opportunity to review the design and other details of the development, he said.

"Seeing no objection, we went forward and purchased the property," he said.

The subdivision plan also has been reviewed and approved by appropriate county agencies. The development will include 31 homes on 1/4 -acre to 1/3 -acre lots, which are being marketed for between $186,000 and $202,000.

The residents have requested that the developer provide a screen of trees and possibly create a berm to separate the development and increase privacy. "We want some separation between us so we don't feel like the peasants next to the castle," said Flintfeet Lane resident Linden Mercer.

Mr. Kobylski said landscaping isn't possible because the county requires that the rear of the lots be used for a storm-water management system.

The Owen Brown village board told Mr. Misra and his neighbors that it can do little beyond making requests to the developer.

The whole situation has left Mr. Misra perplexed. "Somebody dropped the ball," he said. "The net result is that I'm going to find out how this process happens. I want to see who is the elected, accountable person who's responsible, and see if they can be held accountable for future development."

He said one reason he moved to Columbia is because it offers "consumer protection for the average person like me because there's a body of people that want some minimum standards." He said Oak Tree reminds him of projects in Montgomery County where adjacent developments don't seem to blend.

Mr. Mercer, an Air Force captain, said he's concerned he'll have trouble selling his house when he is transferred to another duty station.

Mr. Kobylski says the value of the existing homes will likely increase because they will be next to new homes selling for higher prices. More than 50 percent of the homes, which are "customary height" for two-story houses, have been sold before the model has been completed, he said.

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