Columbia's Long Reach village wants the Howard County Planning Board to reconsider its approval last month of plans for the Chalice shopping center, contending that the board didn't listen to all arguments against the giant retail complex proposed for a site off Route 175.
In a rare challenge, the village board is charging that the planning board overstepped its authority in denying comments and questions from residents concerned that the proposed 73-acre commercial center would create severe traffic problems in East Columbia.
"The village board believes that improper conduct of the hearing and an apparent misunderstanding by the Planning Board of its authority amply justify reopening this hearing and reconsideration of this decision," the village board wrote in an Aug. 9 letter to Planning Board Chairwoman Joan Lancos.
But the Rouse Co. -- developer of what would be the second warehouse-style retail center in Columbia -- said the request has no legal merit and amounts to a waste of time and money.
The company "vigorously opposes reopening the hearing," Rouse Vice President David E. Forester said in an Aug. 11 letter to Ms. Lancos.
The letter said that Rouse already is doing engineering work and offering land sales contracts to merchants, who also are spending money on plans.
And it noted that Rouse and county and state governments have begun working on plans to improve roads surrounding the proposed retail center.
"There's a question of equity," said Alton J. Scavo, Rouse's manager of Columbia development. "It seems like we're being penalized for only following the rules. The penalty would be time."
Ms. Lancos did not return telephone calls yesterday.
Planning Board Vice Chairman Ted Mariani said he had not received the village board's request and thus was reluctant to comment.
But Mr. Mariani did defend the Planning Board's procedures.
"I thought everyone had the chance to put their point of view on the record pretty well," he said. "I don't recall anybody being cut off."
The village board disagrees, however, saying Long Reach residents opposed to the project were denied a chance to challenge the findings by Rouse's traffic experts.
Long Reach village board Chairwoman Cecilia Januszkiewicz said the community's "overwhelming concern" is that the warehouse-type retail stores planned for Chalice will be built before road improvements -- particularly before completion of a highway interchange at Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway -- thereby creating more traffic in the village's residential neighborhoods.
The village board wants the schedule for road improvements linked to the retail project.
"Traffic is not going from a mediocre situation to a bad situation," Ms. Januszkiewicz said. "It's going from a bad situation to an intolerable situation."
Planning Board decisions rarely are challenged, said Mr. Mariani, estimating that the board receives, at most, three requests a year to reopen cases.
Cases occasionally have been reopened, he said, but added that he couldn't recall any recent cases that were reconsidered.
The Planning Board approved preliminary plans July 19 for the 440,000-square-foot Chalice project -- about half the size of The Mall in Columbia.
Rouse must submit more detailed plans of the retail center's layout for approval by the planning board before construction can begin.
The $45 million project between Snowden River Parkway and Dobbin Road would be less than a mile from the developer's prototype "power center," 2-year-old Snowden Square on Snowden River Parkway.
A Minnesota company is planning to build another warehouse-style retail center at Route 100 and U.S. 29 in Ellicott City.
Other developers are looking at sites in Savage and Elkridge for possible large retail developments.