Mixed-use proposal modified Feaga plan would allow some development

January 21, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Howard County Councilman Charles C. Feaga backed away slightly this week from his proposal to eliminate a mixed-use site in Fulton from the 1990 General Plan.

Mr. Feaga would designate all but a small portion of the 820-acre farm for single-family homes. The remainder would be for commercial and business use.

"I'm not real crazy about what I've introduced here," Mr. Feaga, R-5th, told a crowd of about 110 people at a public hearing on his proposal Tuesday night. "I did this as a compromise."

Most of the people who testified on Mr. Feaga's proposal felt it didn't go far enough.

They liked the fact that the resolution would do away with the mixed-use designation in Fulton. But they did not like the combination of residential and planned employment center zoning that Mr. Feaga was offering in its place. They wanted to keep the zoning as it is now -- one house per three acres.

"I am convinced that if one more home is built in the county, it would be too much for a lot of people," Mr. Feaga said. "If given a choice, I would go for mixed-use -- [a concept joining shops, houses, apartments and businesses closely together in the same development] -- if this does not pass. I don't believe in stealing other people's property."

Mr. Feaga was reacting to a comment from Greg Brown, president of the Cherry Tree Farm Neighborhood Organization. Mr. Brown said he hoped the county could find a way to keep the Fulton property functioning as a farm -- something Mr. Feaga said was impossible. The farm at U.S. 29 and and Route 216 offers a scenic backdrop for residents of the Cherry Tree Farm housing development.

"None of us really think this is going to stay a farm," Tim Schantz of Fulton told Mr. Feaga. Allowing one house per three acres to be built on the property "would in fact be development," he said, not stealing.

Mr. Schantz estimated that even with large-lot zoning, the property could be sold for up to $30,000 an acre and bring an overall price of $25 million.

"It will only be worth more if you rezone it at a higher density," he said. Any such rezoning will be residents' expense, he said, because of additional schools and roads needed to accommodate the growth.

Cathy Midkiff of the Twin Oaks neighborhood in northern Laurel questioned Mr. Feaga's proposed designation of part of the farm property for use as a planned employment center.

"I want to be able to trust -- and I'm not sure I can," she said. "Is the PEC idea a way to rezone later at a higher density?" She said she was asking the question because developer John Liparini told her that there is no market now for planned employment center zoning and he is seeking to build apartments instead.

Mr. Feaga said he included the planned employment center zoning along with the residential zoning in his proposal because some commercial property already exists in the area.

Shirley Geis of Clarksville, "speaking as a private citizen and not as president of the Trotter Road Citizens Association," said she has "very grave fears as to what will happen" when it comes time for the property to be developed.

"Do a piecemeal change in the General Plan and it'll sound great [when elections are held] in 1994," she said. But "there is nothing in the County Code to prevent a residential district from being changed [to higher density] when the time for development comes. The County Council giveth and the County Council taketh away. We know that."

Ms. Geis was on the losing side when the council recently overturned a 1990 General Plan decision to dead end Trotter Road.

Other residents called for the mixed-use concept to be dropped entirely and the General Plan redrawn. "I strongly suggest you go back to ground zero," said Susan Gray, a Highland resident active in growth issues.

Apart from Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr., who was testifying on behalf of the administration, the only other person favoring the mixed-use concept for Fulton was Robert Solem, secretary of the Howard County Citizens' Association.

His group objects to changing a part of the General Plan "without regard to the overall integrity of the plan," Mr. Solem said.

The council, which heard similar testimony last week when sitting as the Zoning Board, will hold a work session on the Feaga resolution Monday night and vote on it Feb. 1.

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