Proposed Rouse development one step nearer Planning Board recommends approval of North Laurel plan

March 27, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Planning Board last night unanimously recommended approval of a preliminary development plan for a 1,410-residence Columbia-style village on a 522-acre site in North Laurel.

With one member absent, the board voted 4-0 in favor of the Rouse Co.'s proposal to build 1,410 single-family houses, townhouses and apartments, and to provide 889,669 square feet of business and office space and keep 182.8 acres as open space.

The village would have the most residents of any project under consideration by the county.

The site, known as the Key property, straddles Interstate 95 just south of Gorman Road and north of Route 216.

The Planning Board's recommendation, which is nonbinding and must be approved by the county Zoning Board this summer, is the first of a number of regulatory hurdles Rouse must overcome if the project is to be built.

The recommendation came two weeks after the board voted in favor of rezoning the site from a planned employment center to a mixed-use community. During that meeting, the board decided to delay its vote on the preliminary development plan after some members asked for more details.

Last night's decision inflamed North Laurel residents who are concerned about the project's impact on schools and local roads.

"This is exactly what we expected from the Planning Board, and that's very disappointing," said Gregory K. Fries, who chairs the Southern Howard Land Use Committee. Fries would not rule out the possibility of a lawsuit to challenge the decision.

"They ignored the public," William Waff, president of the Savage Community Association, said of the board.

Last night, Alton J. Scavo, senior vice president for Rouse, provided more details for the board.

Scavo said the northern portion of the western and eastern parcels would include single-family detached homes to mirror other neighborhoods in the area. A village center would be on the western side of I-95 and an employment center on the eastern side, he said.

Much of the southern sections of both tracts would be dotted with wetlands and woods, Scavo said.

He also broached the topic of the taxes that the commercial ventures would contribute to county coffers.

He noted that Howard planning officials have found that a single-family home must be worth about $300,000 for its taxes to offset the public services its residents use.

Scavo declined to place a value on the worth of each of the project's more than 700 single-family homes, but he pointed out that the commercial area would take up 17 percent of the land.

He said commercial areas take up 19 percent of Columbia's land and provide 33 percent of the town's revenues.

Finally, Scavo said, a loop road through the eastern end of the western parcel would be completed within the first three years of construction. A loop road in the western end of the eastern tract would be built within the first six years, he said.

The Planning Board did not accept testimony from residents, who argued that the road plans mentioned last night were not in Rouse's original petition.

"There was no opportunity to review those new submissions," Fries said. "I think it's a violation of the public trust that the Planning Board is supposed to uphold."

Scavo said he was pleased with the board's action last night but was cautious about appearing too jubilant.

"This is just the first step in a very long process," he said.

Remarks from Tom Flynn, president of the North Laurel Civic Association, which opposes the project, bore out Scavo's caution.

"We plan to see this through to the end," he said.

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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