Ellicott City commission delays vote on townhouses for historic district Developer's assurances don't allay traffic fears

September 04, 1998|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

The Historic District Commission decided last night to postpone a vote on a proposal to build a community in Ellicott City's Historic District, saying it needed more information before making a decision.

The commission -- which votes on changes to the structural and physical appearances of buildings in the district -- listened for nearly two hours to details of the plan.

All six commission members at last night's session voted to table the proposal until their next meeting, scheduled Oct. 1.

"There's some assumptions we can make but I find it difficult to make a decision without more information," said commission member Neil Lang.

Neighbors of the proposed site were given a chance to express their objections to the plan last night.

"The construction of these types of houses fundamentally contradicts the nature of the historical district," said Laura Provan, who has lived in the historic district for 10 years.

Michael Pfau, president of Trinity Homes Inc., proposed in June adding 27 townhouses to the 7.25-acre site across from the Roger Carter Recreation Center. His plan calls for four groups of four to eight homes and one individual home, all surrounding the 70-year-old stone house on the lot. That house has been converted into five apartments.

Pfau -- who plans to sell the homes for about $130,000 each -- says the project's design and color scheme will enhance the area.

"It's just a beautiful natural setting," he said. The proposal "really works well."

But nearby residents fear the houses could clash with the district's surroundings.

"I think you have to look at the total impact," said Sally Bright, a community activist who has lived in Ellicott City for 35 years. "People have worked so hard to preserve" the historic district.

Residents also said there has been too much development in the historic district, eliminating open space and creating traffic problems.

"I'm against this big thrust to build townhouses all over the place," said Jack O'Dell, who has lived in an apartment in the stone house on the site for 2 1/2 years. "As soon as the first truck moves in, I'm leaving."

But Pfau believes the houses will meet a growing market without increasing traffic.

"No one will need to drive," he said. "They will be able to walk to [historic] Ellicott City."

Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the county's Office of Planning ,, and Zoning, reviewed the plans yesterday and said he is concerned about creating a residential community on the site's steep hills, which cover 1.39 acres of the lot.

"I have a whole boatload of questions," said Rutter, whose office will eventually make a recommendation on the plan.

In 1996, officials considered the site for a senior citizens' apartment before choosing another location.

For now, Graystone community -- off College Avenue -- is the only townhouse development in the district. It consists of 28 townhouses, built in 1991.

Pub Date: 9/04/98

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