Developers hatch plans for North Laurel Park, after 95 years NORTH LAUREL/SAVAGE

June 11, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

A wooded tract in North Laurel that was approved as a subdivision nearly a century ago may finally be developed -- once the county figures out how to regulate it.

Area residents, who have become accustomed to the forested open space, are worried that the region can't handle more growth. They say Laurel Woods Elementary School is already over capacity and that nearby roads are congested and dangerous.

"The community is not happy," said Debbie O'Neil, whose home on Baltimore Avenue backs up to the undeveloped site.

"The schools will start overflowing again, and the roads are congested," she said. "We're worried that we're going to get the raw end of the deal."

Known as North Laurel Park, the property extends north from the Patuxent River to the area near Laurel Woods Elementary. It's bounded on the west by Route 216 and the eastern boundary is close to U.S. 1.

Since the land was subdivided into 321 lots in 1898, it was sold to various owners, but the property remained undeveloped.

Most of the owners have just two or three lots, but two developers who own blocks of contiguous lots are moving ahead with construction plans.

Rockville-based Ward Corp. and Cornerstone Homes of Elkridge have been discussing their plans for building at least 60 homes with the county, said Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of the county's Office of Planning and Zoning.

However, the development process has become problematic. When the lots were recorded in 1898, the county had no zoning ordinance or subdivision regulations for open space conservation, storm-water management, landscaping and school capacity, or rules requiring developers to install water and sewer systems and to build roads.

In addition to the exemption from zoning regulations, the scattered ownership of the property leaves open the question of responsibility for building roads and water and sewer lines.

Some owners of small portions of the tract have asked the county for water and sewer service, but county officials have deferred their decision, worried about creating a haphazard system.

"The county is in an awkward position because, legally, anyone who owns a lot has the right to build on it," Ms. McLaughlin said. "But it doesn't work to have lots of little pipes filling up the roadways. The county prefers to have larger numbers of lots served by a county line."

County officials are considering including money for a water and sewer project in the fiscal 1995 capital budget, Ms. McLaughlin said.

"Legally, we can't deny them forever," Ms. McLaughlin said. "There's obvious concerns about schools and roads, but there may be a plan phased in over a period of time. It doesn't mean all 321 lots have to be brought on line immediately."

Area residents worry that once the infrastructure is built, development will be unstoppable.

"I suspect that if the infrastructure goes in, the whole area is going to develop," said Tom Flynn, vice president of the North Laurel Civic Association. "I guess we all recognize development is inevitable, but to have it go up in that degree would be terrible."

The two developers who own sites in North Laurel Park would be able to build a water and sewer system to serve multiple properties.

"I have a nice sizable amount of lots to put together a system in a more uniform, county-approved way," said Brian Boy, vice president of operations for Cornerstone Homes.

The county has approved Patuxent Heights, a community of 27 single-family homes at Baltimore Avenue and Route 216. The project is a joint venture between Cornerstone Homes and the Ward Corp.

Patuxent Heights is subject to the county's land-development regulations because the developers subdivided the original lots, which were unusually small, into larger lots. Those changes constitute new subdivisions that must conform to county guidelines.

Homes in Patuxent Heights will start at $170,000. Mr. Boy said that he plans to begin construction and preliminary sales of the homes next month.

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