Partners request revival of project Developers propose mixed-use community on 42.4-acre site

September 05, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Developers of a proposed 42-acre mixed-use community in Scaggsville that has been in limbo for almost a year have asked county officials to put their plan back on the approval track.

Robert H. Levan, an attorney for a partnership of three developers, sent a letter dated Aug. 21 to the county Zoning Board requesting a work session so the developers -- Canton Builders, Winchester Homes and Cherrytree Corp. -- can submit a revised preliminary development plan for Cherrytree Park.

Original plans for the Scaggsville project -- which would be the county's first mixed-use community since 14,000-acre Columbia was developed during the 1960s -- called for 252 single-family and multifamily homes on half of a 42.4-acre site at the southeast corner of U.S. 29 and Route 216, with 6 acres of employment and retail space and 15 acres of open space.

When members of the Zoning Board raised questions about the project's density and business space at a meeting last October, the developers pulled out of the approval process.

"We are going to revise a plan to satisfy the objections raised by the Zoning Board," Levan said in a telephone interview yesterday. "We are attempting to meet as many of the problems as we can and still develop under the local zoning ordinance that we are entitled to."

Darrel E. Drown, Zoning Board and County Council chairman, said he is unsure whether the developers can begin where they left off last year, instead of again starting the approval process at the beginning.

"These are uncharted waters," said Drown, adding that he has asked attorneys from the county's Office of Law to review zoning procedures. "We've never done this before. We have to look at the rules to make sure we're doing this right."

If the revised plan clears regulatory hurdles, the proposed community could be developed as early as 2000.

Way to maximize acreage

xTC County planners have been touting the mixed-use concept -- which blends homes and businesses in a single area -- as the best way to maximize the decreasing acreage available for development in Howard County.

The southeastern portion of the county is a hotbed for mixed-use development proposals.

On Sept. 24, the Zoning Board will review a plan for a 1,410-home, Columbia-style village on 522 acres in North Laurel.

And the Iager family, which has been farming in nearby Fulton since 1842, is reportedly close to submitting a plan for a 2,000-unit, mixed-use development on nearly 600 acres of farmland.

Alton J. Scavo, a senior vice president for the Rouse Co., which is trying to develop the North Laurel project, said that whatever happens to the Cherrytree Park plan, it should not affect his company's proposal.

"You can't relate 42 acres to 522 acres," Scavo said. "It's like apples and oranges."

Levan, attorney for Cherrytree Park, agreed. "The scale between the two are so different," he said.

Despite its relatively small size, the proposed density of Cherrytree Park raised concerns for Zoning Board members in October.

"High density means too many cars on the roadways and too many children in the school system," said Drown, noting that the panel recommended reducing the number of housing units to fewer than 200.

Months spent revising plan

The board's objections forced developers of Cherrytree Park to revise the plan throughout much of this year, Levan said.

"It is somewhat difficult to take a plan that complied with the code and rearrange it to satisfy the objections raised by the Zoning Board," he said of the delay in asking for a new hearing. "It took us a long time to work through it."

Levan also said proposed changes to the intersection of Route 216 and U.S. 29 required the developers to move the entrance road for the community, further delaying their revised plan.

Area residents are worried about the impact the proposed community would have on local roads and schools.

Louis Pope, who has lived in nearby Warfield Range for 12 years, said the current upgrading of Route 216 and two planned elementary schools will only solve long-standing problems, not prepare the area for development.

"With any new construction, we'll be back to overcrowded classrooms and portables," said Pope, a former president of the Warfield Range Community Association. "Traffic flow is becoming heavy, and it's getting worse."

Levan declined to discuss specifics of the plan until it is completed, but Greg Brown, president of the Cherrytree Farms Neighborhood Organization, said his group has met with the developers.

"We have been reviewing those revisions, and we are finding them to be a definite improvement," Brown said. "We're hopeful that we can all reach an agreement."

Pub Date: 9/05/97

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