Planning Board rejects office complex Residents had opposed Grace Drive project

March 14, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Planning Board yesterday rejected a developer's request to rezone a 2-acre site off Grace Drive in Simpsonville for a small office complex.

The nonbinding recommendation, which will be considered by the county Zoning Board, pleased residents opposed to the introduction of a business center in their neighborhood.

"I think it's a good decision," said Jeff Eng, who lives several

hundred feet west of the proposed site. "I don't see a need to build an office in the area."

In other actions, the Planning Board approved construction of a three-story, 90-bed assisted-living facility in east Columbia and single-family, low-density zoning for a 28-acre parcel in west Columbia's River Hill village.

In the Simpsonville case, the developer of the wooded property, Grace Property Limited Liability Co., argued that the county Zoning Board erred when it zoned the site residential-environmental development during the 1993 Comprehensive Zoning Plan. The property is next to the Washington Research Center of W. R. Grace & Co.

The developer asked for business-local rezoning to build a 63-car parking lot and two 8,000-square-foot, two-story townhouse-style office and retail buildings.

Richard B. Talkin, an attorney representing the developer, said the secluded nature of the parcel -- and its surrounding minor roads, such as Cedar Lane and Grace Drive -- suggest that the site is not suitable for a home.

"It's the isolation of the property that indicates that it should not be used as a residential property," Talkin said. "This is something that can utilize the property in a positive way."

But Craig Peters, who spoke on behalf of his parents, Larry and Gwen Peters, who have lived across from the proposed site for 28 years, said a business district would change the rustic character of the neighborhood.

"Once you start that, there's no stopping it," Peter said. "If isolation is an argument for anything, let it be an argument that business is unsuitable for this area."

Talkin declined to comment on the Planning Board's recommendation.

The board also unanimously approved a site development plan for a three-story, 90-bed assisted-living facility off Broken Land Parkway in Columbia's Owen Brown village.

Edward M. Hord, an architect for Vanguard Development LLP, which will build the center, said a wooded buffer and the residential nature of the facility would be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

"We think that it's a very benign use," he said. "For the neighbors, it's a plus."

Finally, the board unanimously approved a final plan for the next stage of development of Columbia's River Hill village -- a 28-acre parcel owned by Howard Research and Development (HRD) Corp., a Rouse Co. subsidiary.

The decision formalizes single-family, low-density zoning for the site and 17 acres of open space. Greg Klar, assistant director of engineering for HRD, said construction of 67 single-family homes on the property could begin as early as next month.

Pub Date: 3/14/97

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