Chickens, eggs and strip malls Howard County: Development flap in suburban neighborhood turns on the old question, what came first?

July 27, 1998

ZONING DECISIONS are often complicated in Howard County. But a case involving plans to build a strip mall on Montgomery Road in Ellicott City has the subtle flavor of that old chicken-and-egg joke.

You know, which came first? This time, the subject is development.

People whose own homes were viewed with apprehension by old-time residents a few years ago now fear a proposed shopping center on land where the older houses sit.

What goes around really does come around.

Heavy development of this area near U.S. 29 and Routes 103 and 100 began in the 1970s. After the construction of about 1,000 homes, Long Gate shopping center was built in 1995. All the new development was looked upon with derision by families that had settled in the area back when Howard County was mostly farmland. Eventually, those families grew older, sold out and moved away.

Six of those older houses are left on Montgomery Road between Bethel Baptist Church and the YMCA. Only two are occupied. Triangle Development Corp. wants to build a small shopping center on that land to complement Long Gate, and the owners of the older homes want to sell to Triangle.

Residents of the newer subdivisions once derided as overdevelopment are now the people arguing against more commercial development.

A zoning change is necessary to build the strip mall on residential land. The zoning board has had two hearings on the matter. It intends to decide Wednesday.

The board must take into consideration the impact that building more stores and shops would have on traffic and noise. The character of a residential area is still at stake, as it was when development decisions were made years ago.

The zoning board has refused to allow a commercial building on another nearby site. Maybe there's a developer who would build houses on the land that Triangle wants.

That could provide a solution for the remaining homeowners on the site who want to move.

Pub Date: 7/27/98

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