Long Reach housing plan is approved

November 24, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

A reluctant county Planning Board approved a 700-unit development in Long Reach yesterday -- including 64 moderate-income townhouses that have drawn fire from the Village Board and dozens of Kendall Ridge residents.

Board members said their hands were tied by a June 23 decision in which they approved a more generalized plan showing types of housing that would be allowed in the area.

Despite approving more detailed plans for the Kendall Ridge III, the four board members said they are concerned about the density of housing, a lack of parkland and other details of the Rouse Co. project.

"It was disappointing to hear that the Planning Board [members] were left unhappy by the present circumstances, but were powerless to do anything about it," said Cecilia Januszkiewicz, chairwoman of the Village Board.

The problem faced by citizens, she added, is that there never seems to be an appropriate time to raise objections during the county's approval process.

"In the earlier stages you don't have any details, but in the later stages, once you get the details, there's nothing you can do about them," Ms. Januszkiewicz said.

David E. Forester, the Rouse Co.'s vice president and senior development director for Columbia, said the company is pleased with yesterday's approval but disappointed at the intense opposition from Long Reach residents and the village association board of directors.

Since last week, Rouse planners have been reshaping their plans and Tuesday night met with Village Board members, trying to win their support.

The Long Reach board applauded the addition of 3,000 feet of XTC pedestrian and bicycle pathways, the saving of a grove of mature trees and a reduction in the number of homes by 13 but testified against the proposal before the Planning Board anyway.

Opponents have criticized the plan's small lots, high-density housing and a shortage of parkland in Kendall Ridge, where the population is projected to grow from about 3,600 residents to nearly 6,000 during the next two years.

When the Village Board meets Dec. 6, it will decide whether to appeal the Planning Board's decision to the county Board of Appeals, Ms. Januszkiewicz said.

Echoing the Village Board's objections, Long Reach resident Corby Gould yesterday told the Planning Board that Long Reach Village seemed to be getting more than its share of high-density development.

"I've seen buildings popping up all around Long Reach, and they're all multifamily," Ms. Gould said.

Kendall Ridge, along Snowden River Parkway between Routes 175 and 108, is one of the last areas left for the Rouse Co. to develop in Columbia. Other areas include the westernmost village, River Hill, and in Town Center next to The Mall.

Rouse planners pointed out that the Village Board supported the company's proposal to change 145 acres in Kendall Ridge from commercial to residential zoning, a switch that was approved three years ago by the county Zoning Board.

But since then, village residents have objected to parts of the plan, especially to 64 townhouses for moderate-income families. Village Board members have not specifically opposed that component, but have said there are too many densely packed townhouses in the project.

Ms. Januszkiewicz said the moderate-income townhouses were "a part of the big picture, but it's the big picture that concerns us. The density is an issue, and the open space surrounds the property but doesn't break up the middle."

Joseph H. Necker Jr., Rouse Co. engineering director for Columbia, noted that when the Zoning Board approved the change in 1991, the Kendall Ridge III section was expected to accommodate 921 houses and apartments.

Since then, trends in the real estate market have prompted Rouse to change the type of homes it will allow builders to construct, which has cut the number of homes to 740, as of last week. After the Village Board raised its objections, that number was cut to 727.

Mr. Necker said the last-minute change was based on the way the homesites and open space fit the lay of the land.

Another major change, Mr. Forester said, was adding 3,000 feet of pathway -- to be built by the nonprofit Columbia Association -- to the 6,000 feet already planned for the Kendall Ridge III development.

Although Long Reach board members were not terribly impressed with that, Mr. Necker told the Planning Board that the result of the change "is probably one of the most extensive pathway systems in Columbia."

Ms. Januszkiewicz disagreed, saying it was not certain whether the Columbia Association would be able or willing to build the extra pathways.

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