Board delays Cherrytree decision Mixed-use community is opposed by nearby residents

'The density is ridiculous'

Residential, retail, open areas would be part of 42.5-acre site

July 25, 1996|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

A proposed North Laurel community being heralded as a model for future development in Howard County must scale another zoning hurdle.

The County Council, sitting as the Zoning Board, postponed last night a decision on the Cherrytree Park development until September, when it hears the case of nearby residents who oppose the plan.

Cherrytree is a mixed-use community proposed for a 42.5-acre site near U.S. 29 and Route 216. Opponents disagree with the very core of the proposal -- the mixed-used concept.

Mixed-use -- considered by advocates a solution to suburban sprawl -- allows high-density development on parcels of land while at the same time offering residents the convenience of living, working, shopping and playing without having to leave their neighborhood.

Columbia was based on the concept and the zoning category was touted in the county's 1990 General Plan.

Last night, Cherrytree's developer presented preliminary plans that include 33 single-family detached homes, 114 townhouses, 120 apartments or condominiums, about 10,000 square feet of zTC retail space, 14,000 square feet of office space and acres of parkland and open space.

But residents of Cherrytree Farm, a community of 206 single-family, detached homes, say the proposed development will bring an urban atmosphere to a mostly exurban area.

Besides fears that the proposal will congest traffic and crowd schools, it threatens "to change the character of the neighborhood," said David Riffert, one of a dozen opponents at the hearing. "There are two homes to an acre in Cherrytree Farm and the density they are proposing for a 42-acre plot is ridiculous."

The county's advocacy of the mixed-use concept also worried opponents.

"We don't like this plan, but we feel that there's a pressure to develop it. It's pretty much a done deal," said Cherrytree Farm resident Michael Custer. "The builders want to build and so does the county."

Perry Rogers, president of the Cherrytree Corp., developer of the proposed area, agreed that it is inevitable that the land will be developed.

"Of course they would want it to remain open green space forever," he said. "But it will be developed. The question is how."

While Zoning Board members were generous in their support of the mixed-use concept, they also expressed concern about how it would be implemented.

Councilman Dennis R. Schrader took issue with the proposal's high number of residences.

In 1993, the county rezoned the parcel to allow for mixed uses. That zoning category requires a minimum of 15 percent employment use, 20 percent residential use and 35 percent open space.

The proposal meets the minimum amount of employment and open-space requirements, but has 50 percent residential use.

"There could be a lot more employment," Schrader said. "It's really a residential subdivision" as proposed. The hearing is scheduled to continue Sept. 18.

Pub Date: 7/25/96

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