Cool reception for mixed-use plan Neighbors wary of officials' proposal

February 07, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Howard County officials collected heat over proposed mixed-use centers yesterday at a meeting with their suburban government counterparts.

Officials from Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties and the city of Laurel met at the University of Maryland campus in College Park to discuss land planning and transportation issues in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

Representatives of all the jurisdictions except Anne Arundel worried about Howard's proposed mixed-use centers, calling them examples of how one county's plans might hurt its neighbors.

"We're nestled among all the red and orange blobs up there," said

Laurel Planning Director Karl D. Brendle, pointing to a large map showing mixed-use centers in orange and employment centers in red.

The mixed-use centers proposed in Howard County's eastern comprehensive rezoning, which would allow for apartments, houses, shops and businesses, could threaten the character of Laurel's historic Main Street area, Mr. Brendle said.

Montgomery County officials reiterated their concern that a mixed-use center at U.S. Route 29 and state Route 216 would worsen traffic congestion on their end of U.S. 29, unless some form of mass transit comes to the area.

"It is not rational to attempt to put an eight-lane freeway down through Silver Spring," said Montgomery County Executive Neal Potter.

The largest "blobs" were in Howard County, but a number of smaller red and orange spots appeared in Prince George's County along the U.S. 1-Interstate 95 corridor.

Officials were particularly concerned about mixed-used sites in Fulton and North Laurel, both along Route 216.

But Joseph W. Rutter Jr., Howard County director of planning and zoning, responded that the county's proposed zoning has been misinterpreted.

"It's kind of hard to take seriously those who would stop growth" and allow only the continuing development of "economically and racially segregated suburbs," he said.

Mr. Rutter pointed out that the county has an adequate public facilities ordinance that levies an excise tax to pay for road improvements for the mixed-use centers.

The largest of those, 820 acres at Fulton, will not work without improvements to Route 216, he said.

"We're not trying to say they all need to be developed now," Mr. Rutter said.

Rather, he said, they will be developed over the next two decades as public facilities such as roads and schools allow.

He also noted that one of the advantages of a mixed-use center is that it puts jobs and homes together. That cuts down on trips into and out of the center, he said, citing Columbia, where 40 percent of the residents work in or near the community.

Officials from the other jurisdictions were only partly reassured.

"One assumes that not everyone living there is going to be working in Howard County," said Fern V. Piret, director of the Prince George's County Planning Department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

She said only a few mixed-use centers live up to expectations that they will keep much of their traffic close by.

"But we will also have people going up there and taking jobs, and that's a good thing," she added.

She and others also said an excise tax for road improvements is only effective if the money is guaranteed to be used for public facilities.

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