Proposed restrictions on village-style projects might face more delays

Planners' absence, not verbal onslaught, the reason, Guzzone says

April 21, 1999|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Tough restrictions proposed for village-style projects may face more delays, but not because of a verbal onslaught mounted by business leaders at a Howard County Council public hearing this week.

Councilman Guy J. Guzzone, a Laurel-Savage Democrat, said he might move to table his bill next week because the county's top two planners will be in Seattle at a professional conference.

Guzzone and other council members need planners' guidance, he said, to find a path through the competing interests of homeowners and business leaders who have diametrically opposing views of the bill's two most important features. Those would require that roads be finished and open for traffic before subdivision plans are approved, and that 30 percent of open space be usable for recreation.

Those differences were starkly apparent at Monday night's hearing, which lasted until 11 p.m.

"We are tired of playing catch-up on roads," William Waff, president of the Savage Community Association, told the council. "How long was Route 100 in and out of the budget before it was built?"

He was backed by several other community leaders and the county's Sierra Club chapter, which supports the open-space requirement.

Savage is in the southeastern corner of Howard County, where two large mixed-use developments totaling about 2,500 new homes -- plus businesses and offices -- are planned. One, near the intersection of U.S. 29 and Route 216, would be grandfathered under the proposed changes, but another three miles west in Fulton would not be.

That brought Baltimore developer Stuart Greenebaum and two attorneys for his G&R Maple Lawn Inc. to the hearing to tell the council that Guzzone's bill is unfair, unworkable and unconstitutional.

"This bill defeats the purpose and makes new mixed-use developments impossible, at least on my site," Greenebaum said, adding he has spent nearly $7 million on the project.

Lawyer Richard S. Hoffman said the measure violates the Constitution in at least three ways, and fellow attorney Richard B. Talkin said the changes are clearly aimed solely at the Fulton project -- something Guzzone denied.

Greenebaum was backed by speakers representing the county Chamber of Commerce, the Home Builders Association of Maryland and the Howard County Economic Development Authority, whose executive director, Richard W. Story, said the bill would make mixed-use development "unfeasible" in Howard County, and added that "the highway piece is the killer issue."

Guzzone said he wasn't swayed by the criticism. Although he is willing to consider compromises on the highway and open-space issues, he plans to forge ahead. "I pretty much heard what I expected," he said.

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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