Iager Farm plan stalls Zoning Board hearing on mixed-use site delayed until winter

'Did everything we could'

Site developer will go before new panel after fall elections


A fast-track proposal to build one of the largest mixed-use communities in Howard County since Columbia was developed more than three decades ago has been derailed until winter.

The developer of the 507-acre Iager Farm site in Fulton has postponed a July 27 public hearing before the county Zoning Board because it could not forge an agreement with area residents who questioned the impact of the 1,168-home project on local roads, schools and the tax base.

"We did everything we could," said Richard B. Talkin, a Columbia zoning attorney representing G&R Maple Lawn Inc., which had hoped to begin construction in 2000. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to work things out between both sides.

"We said that if we couldn't come to an agreement, we would postpone it until winter," he continued, "and that's what we're going to do."

The setback is potentially significant because after the Zoning Board takes its monthlong hiatus in two weeks, the panel cannot schedule a new zoning hearing until a new County Council -- which doubles as the board -- is elected in November.

New board members are unlikely to share the same perspective on development as the current panel, one slow-growth advocate predicted.

"I'm certain that [a new Zoning Board] will raise more concerns," said Peter J. Oswald, former president of the Greater Beaufort Park Citizens Association, which objected to the mixed-use plan in Fulton. "Will they change much? That remains to be seen."

What area homeowners are assured of is several more months of negotiations with the developer and planning for the public hearing.

"In a way, I'm sort of relieved," said James Oliver, whose 3-acre farm on Johns Hopkins Road would be bisected by a road from the proposed development. "It was very much up in the air about what my options were. If nothing else, this gives me time to think."

The Fulton preliminary development plan -- which was approved by the county Planning Board last month -- outlined a community of single-family houses, townhouses and condominiums; 1.1 million square feet of employment space; and 177 acres of open space on a tract just west of U.S. 29.

The site is bounded by Johns Hopkins Road to the north and Route 216 to the south.

The proposed community would be less than three miles from two other mixed-use projects -- Cherrytree Park in Scaggsville and the Rouse Co. plan in North Laurel -- that together would add more than 2,500 houses in southeastern Howard over a 10-year span.

State Sen. Martin G. Madden said his biggest concern is the viability of three mixed-use projects in one area. He thinks the Rouse and Cherrytree projects should be built and open for a few years before a decision is made on building the Fulton site.

"The only mixed-use centers that exist exist on paper," said the Clarksville Republican, whose district includes North Laurel. "It's important to have working prototypes to learn what the impacts are."

One of the biggest hurdles in discussions between the developer and Fulton residents was the phase-in schedule, according to several homeowners who participated in the negotiations.

The developer wants the project to unfold in two phases. The first would entail 534 homes and 176,000 square feet of employment space. The second phase would not begin until improvements to the Route 216 and U.S. 29 interchange are completed in 2004.

John Adolphsen Sr., who has lived in Fulton for more than 30 years, said homeowners requested that much of the first phase also be delayed until the interchange improvements are completed.

"We had tried to get the phasing changed to ease the impact, [but] they were unwilling to concede anything there," Adolphsen said.

Added Oswald: "The bottom line was we took what they proposed back to our communities, and people overwhelmingly rejected what was on the table."

County Councilman Darrel E. Drown, who chairs the Zoning Board, praised the developer for delaying the case until both sides can reach an agreement.

Mixed-use proposals "are such a new thing," he said. "The idea of getting it done within 30 days is a difficult task, and -- guess what -- it was a difficult task."

Pub Date: 7/17/98

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