Citizens fight Zoning Board over N. Laurel development Group to appeal Rouse OK for Columbia-style village

September 17, 1998|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

A powerful advocacy group representing citizens and community organizations in the North Laurel, Savage and Fulton areas will appeal the Howard County Zoning Board's decision to allow the Rouse Co. to build a controversial Columbia-style village in North Laurel.

Greg Fries, chairman of the Southern Howard Land Use Committee, said the group will file an appeal to the county Circuit Court by the end of the month.

In February, the Zoning Board -- which comprises the five members of the County Council -- approved rezoning the property from employment to mixed use.

After months of contentious public hearings, the board handed down its decision in June, giving Rouse the go-ahead to build a mixed-use development that would have 1,201 residential units, 89 acres of commercial space and 182 acres of open space on 516 acres straddling Interstate 95.

Fries said the appeal will attempt to show that Rouse failed to meet strict legal criteria for the zoning change and that the majority of the Zoning Board failed to correctly interpret the law.

"We hope to be successful, and we think we have an excellent chance of winning," Fries said.

Karina Zimmerman, vice chairwoman, said "politics, not logic, determined the Zoning Board's actions. A careful interpretation of the law by the courts will reverse the Zoning Board's decision," she said.

Alton J. Scavo, Rouse Co. senior vice president, said the news of the appeal was expected. "We'll continue the process and with the plan, as is our right," he said.

Rouse officials are preparing the comprehensive sketch plans of the project and will submit them to the Office of Planning and Zoning within the next 60 days. Construction is expected by 2000.

Committee members are set to raise funds to defray the costs of the appeal.

Three mixed-use plans -- the Rouse project, the Iager Farm development in Fulton and Cherrytree Park in Scaggsville -- could produce more than 2,600 homes within a three-mile radius over a 10-year period. Concerned citizens groups have voiced concern that the projects could radically alter the landscape of the southeastern corner of the county.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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