Zoning board reverses itself to give go-ahead on Centre 9500

January 20, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

With hopes of ending 3 1/2 years of delays, the county Zoning Board reversed itself last night and granted permission to a developer to begin building homes on the 352-acre Centre 9500 development in Elkridge.

The board's unanimous action means that 100 Investment Limited Partnership, the developer, can now build houses without waiting for a public golf course to be built first.

Last week, the board voted 4-1 not to change its 1990 zoning requirements for the project, one of which was that construction of the golf course begin before residential or commercial construction.

Unless the board reversed itself, the developer had warned, the project would die while the partnership waited for the county to build a public golf course.

Under the new zoning requirements, the developer has to hand over about 170 acres to the county for the golf course.

In changing the requirements, the board seemed satisfied with a commitment from County Executive Charles I. Ecker that the course will be built.

"If we don't go forward with this proposal right here, everything gets squashed, and I believe we may never see a golf course in Elkridge," said Councilman Darrel Drown, a Republican whose newly drawn district will include Elkridge.

Members of the development partnership were pleased with the decision, said the developer's attorney, Richard B. Talkin.

"This is a major step forward," he said. "Both the executive and the council are committed to having the golf course there."

Mr. Talkin said the golf course's future seemed further assured by council members' comments last night that the course should be built even if it were not totally self-supporting.

Making the course pay for itself through revenue bonds has been a major sticking point in negotiations between the developer and the county.

The county had agreed to buy a course built by the developer for $6 million but backed out when a study showed revenues might not pay the debt service on the project. Mr. Ecker now says he wants to solicit proposals from private firms to build the course for less money, a move expected to delay the course's construction until a year from now.

The board's action last night worried some Elkridge residents who expected that the golf course construction would start first.

"I guess the worry I have is, will they ever build a golf course?" said Ed Niehenke, a longtime resident of Marshalee Estates. He has followed the project, to be located near his home, since it was proposed in 1988.

Mr. Niehenke testified against allowing the project to proceed at a board hearing in May on the proposed change. The board did not meet to decide the issue until last week because it was waiting for the developer to conclude negotiations with administration officials.

When the acreage donated by the developer is added to land gained from a swap with the State Highway Administration, the golf course property will total 196 acres.

The development partnership -- Coscin Adler, Lovel America Inc. and Brantly Development Corp. -- has pledged to designate the golf course land as open space so that only public facilities, such as a school, could ever be built on it.

"The community needs to be vigilant in seeing that this promise is kept," said Barbara Wachs, an Elkridge Community Association member who monitors planning and zoning issues.

"Governments change," Ms. Wachs said, noting that M. Elizabeth Bobo was county executive when the rezoning was approved in 1990. "Now if Chuck [Ecker] goes out, maybe the next guy won't build it at all."

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