Rouse's N. Laurel project stalls Developer to present second plan based on board's guidelines

March 26, 1998|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF

While plans to build a large-scale development in Fulton are moving forward, the Rouse Co.'s ambitious efforts to build a Columbia-style village in North Laurel appear to have stalled.

Last night, the Howard County Zoning Board was unable to reach a decision on the details of how Rouse should divide the land between residential, commercial and open space areas.

The public work session was supposed to culminate some 14 weeks of divisive hearings about the 522-acre parcel of land straddling Interstate 95, south of Gorman Road and north of Route 216.

Instead, the five-member zoning board -- made up of members of the County Council -- agreed to schedule another hearing at which the Rouse Co., the builder of Columbia, will present a second preliminary development plan (PDP) for the site based on the board's guidelines.

Rouse planners will be required to present a detailed plan for their proposed development that follows these guidelines: 120 acres of single-family detached housing, 60 acres of single-family attached housing, 250 apartment units, 155 acres of employment space and 180 acres of open space.

After last night's hearing, Alton Scavo, Rouse senior vice president, said "it would be fair to say we're as unhappy" as opponents of the development.

The zoning board "gave less than clear instructions on what we should do," he said.

Greg Fries, chairman of the Southern Howard County Land Use Committee, said members of the zoning board "can review all the PDPs they want, but we're still going to appeal the original decision."

Fries was referring to the board's decision last month to rezone ++ the site to allow the Rouse Co. to construct homes and some commercial buildings.

The controversial decision gave the development giant approval for mixed-use development zoning, which county planners have been promoting as the best way to maximize the decreasing land available for development in the county.

The Fulton and Rouse projects would bring a housing boom to southern Howard, raising concerns among homeowners and local politicians about the high cost of development and whether more growth controls are needed.

Residents of the North Laurel area -- backed by some elected officials -- said such heavily residential development would overwhelm services, burdening roads and schools.

The zoning board was unable to reach a decision last month after hearing arguments from Rouse and opponents of the zoning change.

Some observers pointed to potential political influence on the decision, noting that two board members on opposite sides of the zoning issue -- Republican Councilmen Dennis R. Schrader and Charles C. Feaga -- are candidates for their party's nomination for county executive this year.

Opponents of the proposed rezoning were unhappy with the outcome of the case.

Fries, of the land use committee, said yesterday the board's decision will be appealed.

While the Fulton project might not become as controversial as Rouse's proposed project -- the land is zoned for such development -- it will have no less an impact on the character of the small town.

Developers from Greenebaum & Rose Associates filed a preliminary development plan on Monday with the Howard County Planning Board outlining the development details for Iager Farm in Fulton.

The county has long expected the farm to be developed and has zoned the area for mixed use.

The county school system has bought 100 acres in the area for elementary, middle and high schools.

Under the plan, 36 percent of the land would be used for single-family, detached homes, almost 14 percent for other residential units and slightly more than 15 percent for employment centers.

At least 35 percent of the land would be preserved as open space, maintaining some of the area's rural flavor.

The first 470 acres of the project -- and the largest piece of land -- is Maple Lawn Farms, which produces about 20,000 turkeys a year and is owned by the Iager family.

The family intends to keep the business.

Monday's filing followed a series of public meetings at which the developer answered residents' questions about the huge project. Community activists are concerned about its impact.

"This is an increasingly costly expense to both state and county taxpayer," said Peter J. Oswald, president of the Greater Beaufort Park Citizens Association in Fulton. "We're going to put in a $28 million interchange [at U.S. 29 and Route 216] to support this development and a $30 million high school. It makes no sense.

"I think they're using mixed use as a smoke screen to allow high-density development that the developer can profit from."

Speaking of the Fulton site and the Rouse project less than five miles apart on Route 216, Oswald said, "We're feeling squeezed in."

Pub Date: 3/26/98

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