Wetlands concerns slow Odenton development Proponents preparing response on town center

September 24, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

County planners and a private developer are putting the finishing touches on their response to concerns raised about the proposed Odenton Town Center and their applications for wetlands permits with the Army Corps of Engineers.

They want the agency to approve their joint application to fill nearly 11 acres of protected wetlands in the first phase of development on the 220-acre parcel bounded by Route 32 on the north and west, Route 175 on the south and railroad tracks on the east.

Supporters of the town center, which sits at the core of the 1,600-acre Odenton growth-management area, say that encouraging concentrated residential and commercial development will serve the growing west county population. The project would bring a 215,000-square-foot retail and office complex and county-built access roads to the site.

But since a June 5 public hearing, some environmentalists, community groups and federal agencies have registered their opposition to the plan, raising concerns about the destruction of wetlands, potential damage to the Severn River watershed and the failure of efforts to replace destroyed wetlands by creating wetlands elsewhere.

In a July 26 letter, the Corps of Engineers appears to have some reservations as well.

"The applicants have not demonstrated that there are not other alternatives which are less environmentally damaging," said the letter to the county and the consultant working with Reliable Contracting Co. Profit Sharing Trust, owner of the first 30 acres proposed for development. "There appears to be several practicable alternative sites for all or part of the proposed project both on-site and off-site of the town center zoned area."

That suggestion has developers worried.

"I'm not sure what else we can do at this point," said Jason Jacobsen of Osprey Investment Co., which is managing development of the land owned by Reliable. "We are trying to further document why there are no other alternatives."

The county and developers have been mapping a response since July to more than 100 comments the corps received after the hearing. After requesting two extensions, they expect to submit their packet by Oct. 4.

"It's just taking the time to make sure that we address all of their concerns," said Rich Josephson, chief of long-range planning in the county.

Trying to find a suitable location to create wetlands to make up for the acres to be filled at the town center site has consumed much of the time, said Jacobsen.

The Corps of Engineers has questioned the developer's ability to create functional wetlands at proposed sites along Towsers Branch and in the Patuxent Preserve. The company may be able to use another privately owned parcel in the county to create wetlands, Jacobsen said. He would not say where the property is.

The Corps of Engineers has no deadline for approving or rejecting the wetlands permits, but officials hope to move quickly after receiving all responses, said Jeff Trulick, project manager with the corps.

Meanwhile, some in the county are anxious to see work begin at the third of the county's designated town centers. Parole and Glen Burnie are working on proposals.

"I don't want to see it take 20 years to get Odenton to the same level we have the Glen Burnie Town Center," County Executive John G. Gary told a meeting of the Greater Odenton Improvement Association last week. "You've got the location everybody wants, and that's why the pressure is here to see Odenton grow."

Gary said that by the end of the year he will hire a coordinator to work with the committee of residents and business people overseeing planning in the growth management area.

The Greater Odenton Improvement Association supports the proposed development of the first phase, but Glenn Akers, president of the association, said he wants to be sure that the replacement of wetlands will be at least equal to what may be lost.

Residents can get information about the county road projects related to the town center and other growth issues in the Odenton area at public forums being held from 4: 30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 1 and 2 at Arundel Senior High School, 1001 Annapolis Road, Gambrills.

Pub Date: 9/24/96

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