'Dream Homes' plan may come true Builders group looks to county planners for proposal approval

July 08, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Carroll could be in line for its first upscale "Dream Homes" project.

The Home Builders Association of Maryland, which wants to build its showcase 1997 development in a golf course subdivision near Finksburg, is recruiting builders and checking the procedure for getting the county planning commission to clear the proposal.

The 50 houses planned in the final two sections of the River Downs subdivision will add students at West Middle School in Westminster, projected to be at 105 percent of capacity in September.

But the developer, Gaylord Brooks Realty Co. of Phoenix, has dropped a request to increase the total to 55 houses. That leaves the county Planning and Zoning Commission to consider only changes in alignment of the lots at its July 16 meeting.

The subdivision does not fall under the county's Interim Development Control Ordinance because the preliminary plan was filed in 1991. The ordinance, which is designed to slow growth during the next 18 months or until the county can revise its master plan, became effective May 7.

The developer has decided to forgo an offer from John T. Lyburn Jr., county economic development director, to put the TTC subdivision on the county government's "fast track," a program that speeds county reviews of projects that Lyburn designated.

"We have talked to development review [staff], and we can be accommodated without having to go through the fast track schedule," said Stephen R. Smith, president of Brooks Realty.

Lyburn could not be reached for comment.

Brooks Realty must be able to record plats of the subdivision's final sections by Aug. 30 to meet the Home Builders Association deadline.

One of the two remaining River Downs sections is earmarked for Dream Homes, a program for builders to design and construct their vision of a dream house.

Maryland's first Dream Homes, in the Woodridge subdivision near the Carroll-Baltimore county line off Route 140 near Reisterstown, attracted more than 50,000 visitors to tour nine luxury houses priced from $469,000 to $775,000. But the houses sold slowly.

Last year's planned Dream Homes program in Howard County was canceled when only one builder commited to the event.

But the 1995 Dream Homes plats in the Piney Orchard subdivision in Anne Arundel County are reported to be selling well.

"Sales have been very brisk at the Dream Homes site, but sales also have been brisk at Piney Orchard," said Steven Koren, development manager for Constellation Real Estate Group Inc.

Koren said 18 of the 24 lots have been sold to builders, on target with Constellation's estimate of two years to sell the lots.

An estimated 30,000 visitors toured six models in 1995. The houses are about $300,000.

Dream Homes in River Downs would sell for $350,000 to $550,000, Smith said. Other houses in the subdivision on Lawndale Road have sold for $600,000, he said.

The county management and budget staff calculates that a house priced at $208,750 will generate enough property tax revenue to offset the cost of county services it requires.

The River Downs homes "provide a positive flow to the tax base and also provide executive housing in Carroll County," Smith said.

Direct economic benefit from the Dream Homes is difficult to identify, but the houses are "a statement to the effect that there is a high quality of life here," said Bill Badger, business location consultant to the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp.

Cynthia A. Wick, the builders association's public relations director, said it would be premature to release information about Dream Homes 1997 and potential economic benefits.

"We still have to sign up the builders," she said.

Pub Date: 7/08/96

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