Board will look again at project in Elkridge

January 19, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer Staff writer Sherry Joe contributed to this story.

It was a happy compromise in an environment that should have pitted developers of an ambitious project in Elkridge against local residents: Developers would make room for a public golf course in exchange for zoning approval for the 352-acre Centre 9500.

That was 3 1/2 years ago.

Now the project will fail, the developers warn, because of government indecision over how the golf course should be built and who should build it, and the failure of the Zoning Board to allow the project to begin without the course.

"You've killed this whole project," an angry Richard B. Talkin told County Council members convened as the Zoning Board last Wednesday. Mr. Talkin, the zoning attorney who engineered the 1990 compromise, and members of 100 Investment Limited Partnership, were dismayed by the council members' 4-1 vote against allowing their project to proceed.

In the wake of that blowup, members will meet again tonight at 7:30 with representatives of County Executive Charles I. Ecker and center developers to get information that council members said they should have had in the first place.

Crucial is the commitment from Mr. Ecker that the course will be built, no matter what. Mr. Ecker said he sent a letter Friday that should clear up that issue.

"We are going to build a golf course," he said, explaining that the county will first give private firms a chance to bid on building and developing a public, daily fee course.

"If we don't get a bid, then I'm committed to build a course there," Mr. Ecker said.

Mr. Ecker's effort to privatize the project is what has upset the developers. The move will delay the expected start of construction of the course -- as well as permission to build homes -- from this spring to about a year from now.

"I would recommend that the Zoning Board change the [1990 decision] to allow them to proceed, because we're going to build a golf course," Mr. Ecker said.

That recommendation, if followed by council members tonight, would please the developers, but not Elkridge residents.

The residents want more assurances that the 196-acre golf course property won't end up with more townhouses or other development on it.

Ray Miller, president of the Elkridge Community Association, said he understands the problem with the delay, but still wants to see the golf course in place before homes are built.

"Everybody is as frustrated as the developer, but that doesn't mean we're on the side of the developer," he said.

Mr. Miller said if the developers are allowed to build homes before the golf course is built, "then the residents will have to be the ones who have to spur the county forward" on the project.

After three years of negotiations, Mr. Miller said he does not fear that the developers will abandon the Centre 9500 project.

"They've invested so much that I don't think they'll abandon it," he said. "They want to be able to go forward with the development before the golf course is built."

Those developers -- partners Coscin Adler, Lovel America Inc. and Brantly Development Corp. -- have pledged to designate the golf course land as open space, so that only public facilities such as a school or fire station could ever be built on it.

Developers have complained that delays in the project, which was first proposed for rezoning in 1988, have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in addition to about $600,000 for plans and studies for the golf course.

To add to the project's woes, the booming commercial real estate market has gone bust since its approval, so development of that half of Centre 9500 is unlikely to happen in the near future.

What could help recoup the investment is the residential development, which developers say depends on the golf course for success.

"Believe me, we want to see it done more so than the county," said Howard L. Resneck, project manager for the development partnership. "There's a financial interest from our end . . . there's no one that I've spoken to that does not want to see the golf course go forward."

Mr. Ecker said recent delays were in the interest of making sure taxpayers won't get stuck with the bill for the course.

"The thing appeared to me to be costing too much money to be able to support it by greens fees," he said. "I have talked to a number of people who claim that they can do it for less money, so I'm going to give them an opportunity to do it."

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