Odenton development committee members question the group's usefulness Dormant since November, panel was appointed to draft guidelines WEST COUNTY

June 25, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

A group of residents, developers and business owners trying to design a new Odenton hasn't met since November, leading some members to suggest the committee be disbanded and others to say it's already defunct.

"I really think it has done just about as much as it can do," said William P. Chewning, a member and major property owner in Odenton. "It was useful to a certain extent."

Mr. Chewning said it is time for county planning officials to take over and use their expertise. For seven months, he said, nothing has been done.

"Now it's the end of the summer and we haven't approved anything," Mr. Chewning said.

The Odenton Town Center Growth Management Committee, appointed by County Executive Robert R. Neall, has been meeting for more than 18 months to draft guidelines for the 218-acre town center and its periphery.

Norman G. Myers, president of the Greater Odenton Improvement Association and another committee member, said, "I think if the county doesn't call a meeting soon, we can assume they are trying to kill it."

Other members complain that county planners, distracted by government reorganization efforts, have left them in the dark.

"We want to know what the devil is going on," said Ed Griemsmann, president of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce. "The chairman has never called me. They have left us floundering."

The 18-member committee has expanded its role to draft a cohesive plan that encompasses the entire community.

Yolanda Takesian, a county planner who has been working with the committee since its inception, said staff members are completing a report on information compiled by various subcommittees.

They will send the report to Mr. Neall before presenting it to the full committee. However, many of those working on the project are no longer involved with planning and zoning, or even the county, she said.

"There is no sense running to a conclusion on this when the government is in a state of flux," Ms. Takesian said.

The chairman of the committee, Alfred Shehab, said he does not like the delay, but understands that Mr. Neall has more pressing items to consider.

"I'm communicating with Planning and Zoning," he said. "I find them to be very responsible. If this was a dead issue, they would tell me."

This week, 30 business and property owners in North Odenton petitioned Mr. Neall to remove Mr. Shehab as chairman for saying he wanted to "bulldoze" the Boomtown strip. Mr. Shehab, a former Army colonel, said he was joking.

Yesterday, Mr. Neall said through a spokeswoman that he will not ask Mr. Shehab to resign.

"He believes Col. Shehab's record in the Odenton community far outweighs any comment he may have said in jest," said Louise Hayman, Mr. Neall's spokeswoman.

From the start, some members were concerned that the group lacked a focus. They were trying to design a long-range plan, but builders were afraid of being locked into a project years before any money was committed.

Odenton residents were told to dream of a new town center with tall buildings, expensive clothing stores, high-class restaurants and first-run movie theaters.

But the economy changed, and several months ago, committee members were told a town center built today would be anchored by warehouse-type discount stores instead of glass-walled office buildings.

Business owners objected to suggestions to improve the Boomtown strip, now called North Odenton.

Not all of those involved are pessimistic, however.

Jay Winer, the president of the company developing Piney Orchard, said his talks with county officials show they are working with information provided by the subcommittees.

Mr. Winer said he believes the committee is still active, adding, "I don't think it's been regularly scheduled as people would like, but by no means do I think it's useless."

Jason Jacobson, vice president of Osprey Development Corp., which owns 30 acres of town center land and plans to build retail outlets there, said the process has "taken longer and has been more involved then anyone, even those on the county staff, has anticipated. We're a little frustrated by it."

But he said a workable plan can emerge. "It will just take some leadership by the county," he said.

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