Planning panel OKs church's proposal to expand facilities Project needs another approval

concern also noted on road widening

July 31, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

An Elkridge church's plan to expand cleared one hurdle with the Howard County Planning Board yesterday, but still must face another.

The board voted 4-0 to endorse Grace Episcopal Church's request to enlarge the sanctuary and a day care center and build a gymnasium in the 6700 block of Montgomery Road. The Board of Appeals will make a final decision on the project Sept. 3.

But a county-backed proposal to widen Montgomery Road could jeopardize those plans -- a possibility pointed out by one Planning Board member.

"This looks like a plan that would work," said member Joan Lancos. "But I do have some concerns [about widening Montgomery Road]."

The board did not fault the church's plan, which would include a 5,744-square-foot expansion of the sanctuary, an 8,834-square-foot addition to the day care center and a 3,499-square-foot gymnasium to the 4.2-acre property. The site is bounded by Landing Road on the west, Old Landing Road on the east, Montgomery Road on the south and a residential area to the north.

But board members noted that the Department of Public Works is mulling a proposal to widen Montgomery, a winding, two-lane road that has become a commuter thoroughfare between U.S. 1 and Route 103.

The church would lose as much as 12 feet on its property if the widening proposal is approved. A decision will not be made on the widening until after the county section of Route 100 opens in the fall between Interstate 95 and Ellicott City.

When the board suggested that Grace Episcopal modify its plan to accommodate the proposed widening, the Rev. Michael Russell, the rector, said residential opposition makes that unlikely, adding that if the road is widened, the church will have to redraft its plans.

"The general sentiment among everyone who lives or works on that road is that [traffic] should be kept down, and that it should be retained as the residential road that it is," he said. Any &L change "seems, to us, onerous."

When the board asked about moving a church entrance from Montgomery Road to Old Landing Road, Russell said homeowners on Old Landing had objected.

"We would really -- in terms of sensitivity to our neighbors -- like to stay off Old Landing Road," he said. "We thought that it would be convenient to have people coming in and out off Montgomery Road."

Underscoring the need to expand, Russell told the board that the church recently had to keep more than 200 teen-agers from a dance because the building could hold only 200 people.

Also, the board unanimously recommended amending the zoning code to allow go-cart tracks in M2, or industrial, districts.

The change, proposed by County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, would require that go-cart tracks be part of a recreation complex involving two other sports activities and be at least 200 feet from residential areas.

The amendment would benefit Jim Harris, who wants to build a Rounding Third Family Entertainment center on 4.1 acres on Amberton Road in the Route 100 Industrial Park on U.S. 1 in Elkridge.

Harris, owner of Rounding Third Sport Center in the Baltimore-Washington Commerce Park in Elkridge, said the $2 million venture would include six batting cages, two pitching tunnels, a 2,000-square-foot arcade, an indoor basketball court, three indoor golf ranges, three outdoor sand volleyball courts, a miniature golf course and the go-cart track.

Planning Board member Gary Kauffman said he was worried that the legislation would open up the U.S. 1 corridor -- which has most of the M2 districts -- to go-cart track operators.

"I don't have a problem with where the first one goes," he said. "But I may have a problem with where the rest go."

Harris agreed. "What would not be beneficial is to have these things popping up everywhere," he said.

Pub Date: 7/31/98

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