A better village Community suggestions improved Waugh Chapel proposal.

March 04, 1997

STURBRIDGE DEVELOPMENT CO. deserves credit for significantly improving its plans to build the Village at Waugh Chapel in western Anne Arundel County. More work and review is needed before the project receives final approval, but designs for the mixed-use center are looking more like the pedestrian-friendly place that county planners sought -- not the typical, automobile-oriented shopping center originally submitted.

The legislation that created a new zoning category called "suburban community center" envisioned this type of a project, as well as the process that is shaping it. The law calls for community participation through a citizens panel and oversight by the county planning department. Critiques from the community and professional planners have significantly enhanced the result.

To his credit, Robert DeStefano, president of Sturbridge Development Co., decided to cooperate and respond to the constructive suggestions from the Crofton area.

He, too, seems pleased with the process at this point and with some of the unintended results. When planners pointed out, for example, that his proposed multiplex movie theater was isolated and should be brought closer to other parts of the project, Mr. DeStefano was in a bind. Theaters require acres of parking for patrons, who generally don't move their cars for three hours. Merchants want parking spaces to turn over every hour or so. Moving the theater close to their stores and shops might have hurt their businesses.

Mr. DeStefano asked the community advisory panel whether it would prefer an indoor sports complex, which requires far fewer parking spaces than a theater. The response was overwhelmingly supportive. As a result, Mr. DeStefano was able to reconfigure a number of buildings and parking lots and vastly improve the layout.

Mr. DeStefano and his planning consultant, Robert J. DiAsio, call the current set of plans "a work in progress." They seem prepared to make additional changes. Final government approvals are months away, but from what has been done so far, the Village at Waugh Chapel has demonstrated that legislated community and county participation in the planning process can significantly enhance a development.

Pub Date: 3/04/97

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