Rouse defends proposed 517-acre development Company seeks change to mixed-use zoning

residents wary

November 13, 1997|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A Rouse Co. official defended last night his company's proposal to build a 517-acre Columbia-style development in North Laurel, saying it would be well-planned and better for local neighborhoods than a primarily industrial site.

Under cross-examination for a second night before the Howard County Zoning Board, Alton J. Scavo, a Rouse senior vice president, was questioned about Rouse's plans to build a loop road and connectors to other thoroughfares around the proposed development, which would be just south of Gorman Road and north of Route 216, and would be bisected by Interstate 95.

The cross-examination was led by Thomas E. Dernoga, an attorney who represents the Southern Howard Land Use Committee, an umbrella organization of citizen groups that is fighting the rezoning Rouse needs to build the development.

Rouse would like to change the zoning from employment, which allows retail office buildings and commercial centers to mixed-use (residential and commercial).

The land-use group worries that more residences would burden the county's services and roads, and crowd the schools.

In response to Scavo's earlier testimony that mixed-use zoning would be easier on residents, Dernoga asked whether local residents would be protected by the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance if Rouse built under employment zoning.

Scavo responded that traffic would be worse for local residents if Rouse built retail buildings instead of a mixed-use community.

"The amount of noise, hustle and bustle" would be greater under employment zoning than under mixed-use zoning, Scavo said.

Dernoga also attacked Rouse for planning the minimum amount of open space.

Scavo responded that open space almost always increases during the engineering phase. Employment zoning requires 25 percent open space, while mixed-used zoning requires 35 percent, he said.

Rouse plans call for 88 acres for business and office use, 182 acres for open space and 182 acres for residences.

Asked how Rouse would deal with State Highway Administration's possible rejection of interchanges on Route 216, Scavo said his company had developed similar projects and was following the usual procedures.

"SHA is always cutting back on projects," Scavo said, adding that Rouse isn't required to seek SHA approval for road engineering at this time.

To get the zoning changed, Rouse must prove that a mistake was made in the 1993 zoning of the site or that the neighborhoods have changed significantly and the site warrants new designation.

Scavo has consistently said the surrounding neighborhoods are residential in nature and would not blend well with an employment-zoned site.

Last night, Dernoga asked why employment zoning would be out of place in those neighborhoods when heavily industrial areas along U.S. 1 seemed to work fine with neighborhoods close to Rouse's site.

Scavo replied that the area "feels like a residential area today" and should continue to be one.

One of Rouses' main contentions involves the 1993 General Plan and the Zoning Board's contention at that time that Rouse would wait until 2003, when the next comprehensive rezoning is scheduled, to develop the land.

Scavo has testified that during those 1993 discussions, board members said they felt mixed-use was the correct designation but that the time was not right for development so the employment designation was not changed.

Under cross-examination last night, Scavo said he hadn't listened to all of the tapes of the 1993 meetings but that members of his staff had. Because Rouse officials didn't transcribe the tapes, those who listened to the tapes will be called as witnesses, he said.

Pub Date: 11/13/97

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