Rouse Co. hears River Hill concerns on Columbia expansion plan

November 17, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Rouse Co. officials met with two citizens groups this week -- newcomers to River Hill village and longtime residents of the rural surroundings -- to explain development plans that would extend Columbia to Clarksville and add about 1,100 housing units.

Howard Research and Development Corp., a Rouse Co. subsidiary, has a hearing before the county Planning Board Tuesday to present its plan to build a village shopping center, apartments, condominiums, townhouses and single-family homes interspersed with open-space areas on about 424 acres between Trotter Road and Route 108 in Clarksville. The 10 a.m. hearing is in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.

The majority of the proposed River Hill section lies north of the planned relocation of Route 32 and contains the only multifamily housing and commercial areas for Columbia's 10th and final village, bordered on the east by the 1,100-acre Middle Patuxent Environmental Area.

The state recently started construction on a 4.4-mile stretch of four-lane highway with interchanges to ease traffic problems on the existing two-lane Route 32, also called Guilford Road. It expects to finish the project by spring 1996, about the time that the Rouse Co. anticipates completing residences in the section.

The River Hill village board and the Trotter Road Citizens Association each have expressed concern about the development's impact on traffic, particularly on Trotter Road, a north-south country road that bisects River Hill. The Rouse Co. met with the groups the last two nights.

"We'd like to see evidence [the Rouse Co.] will do something to cut down on traffic in our area," said Shirley Geis, a Trotter Road resident since 1956 and president of the association. "It's a quiet, winding residential road, a farm road. It wasn't meant as a commuter road."

Rouse Co. officials said the proposed Pheasant Ridge neighborhood -- which would include nearly half of River Hill's 2,300 planned housing units -- would not significantly increase traffic on Trotter Road because new traffic patterns would be established.

Traffic from the new section would be channeled off Trotter Road to Route 108, which is slated for improvements, and the new Route 32 via Great Star Drive, a four-lane major artery the Rouse Co. plans to build, said David Forester, the company's senior development director. Route 32 interchanges would be constructed at Route 108 and Great Star Drive. Trotter Road would be closed off from the new Route 32.

Still, Ms. Geis said that another road should be built through the village to divert "cut-through" traffic from Trotter Road.

River Hill village board Vice Chairman Elliott Cowan said he feared that traffic would increase on Trotter Road if the Rouse Co. delays completion of Great Star Drive to coincide with construction of townhouses, apartments and condominiums planned along it.

"We want to see traffic diverted as soon as it exists," Mr. Cowan said.

Mr. Forester said he couldn't predict when Great Star Drive would be constructed, but added that building multifamily housing is a priority.

The village center would be built around 1997, on 25 acres off Route 108 bordering Clarksville, and would include a supermarket, about 150,000 square feet of retail space, restaurants and a gas station, according to plans. A Columbia Association recreational facility and a church also are planned.

The section would include about 613 single-family detached homes on 184 acres, 140 townhouses on 14 acres, 342 apartments and condominiums concentrated around the commercial area on 19 acres and 180 acres of open space. A new Western High School is planned just north of the section.

Lot sizes for the single-family homes would range from about one-tenth of an acre to three-quarters of an acre, Mr. Forester said.

When the Rouse Co. originally planned River Hill in the mid-1960s, it did not include any multifamily housing, Mr. Forester said. In 1976, the Rouse Co. replaced plans for an "employment center" with additional residential development. In 1985, it added multifamily housing.

The Trotter Road association is concerned that housing in the new village will be more dense than once anticipated, and wants assurances that buffer space will be provided, Ms. Geis said.

"People that have private homes on large lots because they moved here for privacy don't want houses on smaller lots right on their property lines," Ms. Geis said.

Mr. Forester said about 200 to 400 feet of open space would separate new and older properties.

Development of River Hill, which now has about 200 homes, could extend to the turn of the century.

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