An article in yesterday's Howard County edition of The Sun gave the wrong dates for two public hearings before the Zoning Board. The preliminary development plan for the Rouse project in North Laurel is scheduled for 1 p.m. May 27. A similar plan for the Cherrytree Park proposal in Scaggsville is slated for 8 p.m. June 24.
The Sun regrets the errors.
Rouse Co. officials have retooled their proposed mixed-use project in North Laurel and it appears ripe for approval by the Howard County Zoning Board, which rejected it two months ago.
FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION
The new preliminary development plan for a Columbia-style village on a 516-acre tract bisected by Interstate 95 -- between Gorman Road on the north and Route 216 on the south -- reduces the number of homes and nearly doubles the amount of employment space in the original draft. It will be reviewed by the Planning Board on May 7.
Activists who were instrumental in fighting the original blueprint say they are not optimistic about their chances a second time around.
"My feeling is that [the Planning Board is] going to rubber stamp this," said Greg Fries, who chairs the Southern Howard Land Use Committee, an umbrella group of a dozen civic organizations. "We'll have to see how the Zoning Board takes it, but I'm not sure how much we can do."
In February, after months of hearings, the Zoning Board, which ++ comprises the five members of the County Council, approved what was considered the most contentious issue -- rezoning the property from employment to mixed use.
But the panel then rejected the Rouse plan, requesting adjustments after members expressed reservations over the number of residential units in the mixed-use proposal.
Alton J. Scavo, senior vice president for Rouse, said he hopes the changes will satisfy the concerns raised by the board.
"I think it's a slightly different plan, but I think it's still within the character and spirit of the initial plan," Scavo said. "The Zoning Board had their preference to make it more employment than residential, and that's what we have provided."
Board members Darrel E. Drown and C. Vernon Gray -- who expressed the most concern about the residential concentration declined to comment.
The plan reduces the number of residential units from 1,395 to 1,201, eliminating 245 single-family homes, but increasing the number of townhouses by 51.
The new blueprint also almost doubles the acreage of employment space from 88.8 to 154.9 acres and positions those areas along I-95 and adjacent to the Maryland-Virginia Milk Producers Co-op on the western edge of the property.
The Planning Board will also review another similarly revised preliminary development plan for a nearby Scaggsville development, this one for Cherrytree Park, a 42-acre mixed-use parcel at the southwest corner of U.S. 29 and Route 216 that had been in limbo since October 1996.
Objections about the intensity of residential development raised the Zoning Board at that time forced the developer, Cherrytree Corp., to change the proposal. Since then, the property has been sold to Canton Builders and Winchester Homes.
The second draft reduces the number of homes from 252 to 171. The employment area has been increased from 14,400 square feet to 212,102 square feet with most of the office buildings along U.S. 29.
William B. Waff, president of the Savage Community Association and another member of the Southern Howard Land Use Committee, said he expects Cherrytree Park to be approved.
"It's a small one," Waff said, ranking the project behind the Rouse concept and mixed-use development slated for the 800-acre Iager farm in nearby Fulton. "Those are going to have a much larger impact."
The Cherrytree Park and Rouse revised plans must return to the Planning Board stage to allow the public to comment on the changes, said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning.
If approved there, as expected, they move to the Zoning Board, where Rouse officials have a hearing scheduled June 24.
A hearing for Cherrytree Park has not been set, but it is expected that the board will try to schedule the case before its August vacation.
While the first Planning Board hearing on the Fulton plan has not been scheduled, the Rouse proposal -- which was introduced in 1995 -- is moving faster than expected.
The new Rouse proposal would make the development 35 percent residential, 30 percent employment and 35 percent open space. The previous plan was 48 percent residential, 17 percent employment and 35 percent open space.
The plan also outlines the placement of a second focal point on the eastern parcel to mirror another on the western side.
Rouse officials have also pledged to limit residential construction to 50 percent of the site until 20 percent of the employment acreage is developed.
Scavo said he would be surprised if the board rejected the second draft.
"I can't imagine the same thing repeating," Scavo said. "We have responded precisely to what they have requested. We're hopeful that we can come to a conclusion on this."
But Fries called some of the changes "cosmetic" and said the developer failed to provide a specific building pattern over the 10-year plan.
"We still prefer to see less residential and more commercial," Fries said. "Our position has always been that if we're going to build it, let's put the best possible plan forward, and this isn't it."
Waff said the committee plans to file a legal challenge to the board's approval of the rezoning issue.
"We're still focusing on that," he said, adding that the group is waiting for the formal Zoning Board decision and order. "If we're successful, this whole conversation may be moot."
Pub Date: 4/30/98