County skeptical of plan for Wal-Mart and condos Development called too commercial

June 10, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

County officials say they're not sold -- yet -- on a developer' plan to build a mix of apartments and stores, including a Wal-Mart, in Parole.

Colton and Laskin of Greenbelt, developer of the Harbor Gates apartments in Annapolis, has proposed building a retail and residential complex behind Sam's Club on Generals Highway. The developers say they will follow county-imposed guidelines for channeling and controlling new growth in the congested area.

But county planners say the proposed 280,000-square-foot complex of four main stores and about 100 garden condominium units might not meet the intent of those guidelines, which became law three years ago when the County Council designated Parole a special zoning district. The goal was to make Parole an area where people can live, work and shop; the planners fear the complex would concentrate too heavily on the commercial aspects, at the expense of residential and public uses.

Under the guidelines, Colton and Laskin could build its complex on the 42-acre site -- now designated for commercial office use only -- only by going through an incentive program in which the developer would agree to make community improvements.

The developers would upgrade Housley Avenue, adding curbs, gutters and sidewalks, and extend the road through the site, said project manager Nishan Topjian. The county's capital budget calls for extending the road but allots only $1,000.

The builders also would create a hike and bike path, and they are considering buying an adjacent property and converting a historic home on the site to a museum, though nothing has been made final, Mr. Topjian said.

By including condominiums, he said, the project would stay true to the intent of the Parole Growth Management plan.

But county planners say they need more detail on the developer's incentive plan. They also have questions about road access and wetlands, said Larry Burkins, design division administrator in the Department of Planning and Code Enforcement.

"We're not overly enthused at this point," Mr. Burkins said. "It's heavily weighed toward retail, and we'd like to see a little bit better balance."

Mr. Topjian said the first stage of approval under Parole's special zoning requires little detail, to save builders from investing heavily in plans for projects that may not go through.

The plan calls for the center to include a Wal-Mart that would be the third store in Anne Arundel County, for the nation's fastest-growing discount chain, a large supermarket, a large electronics store and another large store.

County planners outlined their concerns in a June 1 letter to the developer, which was to meet with county officials before submitting a more detailed plan.

If officials approve the changes, they would call for a public hearing on the project. The developers also would need to show, through a traffic study, that existing roads and those they would build or improve could handle traffic the complex would generate.

A committee of community association representatives, environmentalists, architects and developers reviewing a county plan for Parole looked briefly at the Wal-Mart project about a week ago, said A. L. Waldron, a member.

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