Southern Howard's destiny Mixed-use centers are a superior alternative to suburban sprawl.

August 07, 1996

SOUTHERN HOWARD County's location makes it a natural target for growth. Conveniently situated in the middle of the Baltimore-Washington corridor, the locale is a manageable commute to either of the two major cities.

The county's 1990 General Plan unveiled by then-County Executive Elizabeth Bobo assured that the growth would take the form of so-called mixed-use development. A new concept, mixed-use centers were viewed as a way of slowing sprawl by containing new projects in isolated areas.

This idea was launched at a time when the county was riding an enormous housing boom, with the Office of Planning and Zoning approving more than 5,300 housing permits the previous year. ++ New mixed-use communities, the theory went, would be miniature villages where people could live, work and play. Mixed-use centers were one of the most thoughtful and innovative pieces of the General Plan, providing for inevitable growth while retaining a fair amount of open space.

Of course, not everyone was pleased. Neighbors of these planned centers feared the day these places would come to fruition. Residents living in bucolic settings feared losing parcels of nearby land and dreaded crowded schools and roads. Homeowners never welcome development, but they can't deny its inevitability with the strong demand for suburban homes.

Southern Howard County's first mixed-use community will be Cherrytree Park, to be built on a 42.5-acre site near U.S. 29 and Route 216. The Cherrytree Corp. plans to build 252 housing units -- 120 apartments and the remainder a combination of townhouses and detached single-family homes. In addition, it plans 10,000 feet of retail space and 14,000 feet of office space. Cherrytree's proposed residential density of 5.9 housing units per acre is troubling for neighbors with homes on half-acre plots, but it is better than scattering homes all over southern Howard.

The County Council, sitting as the Zoning Board, has delayed approval of the project until residents present their case opposing the plan at a meeting next month. If it hears the same argument that has been made these past six years, there would be no reason for the Zoning Board to reject the development.

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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