Board OKs Rouse Co. proposal

County planners give unanimous support to mixed-use project

Permits still needed

June 17, 1999|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Howard County's first Columbia-style development in more than 30 years moved a step closer to reality last night.

The five-member county Planning Board unanimously approved the Rouse Co.'s detailed plan for a mixed-use development -- residential, offices and open space -- on the 516.9-acre Key Property in North Laurel.

Rouse Senior Development Director and Vice President David Forester said the proposal fits the county's aim to follow the state's Smart Growth initiative.

"The Key project fulfills the General Plan concept for a mix of residential, business and open space," Forester told the board. "Key allows the county to concentrate new growth where infrastructure exists."

Rouse needs further approval from the Department of Planning and Zoning before it can apply for building and grading permits for the site, which straddles Interstate 95 and is bounded by Gorman Road to the north and Route 216 to the south.

The Planning Board's approval will not affect a lawsuit seeking to block the development. Gregory K. Fries, president of the Southern Howard Land Use Committee Inc., said the umbrella organization of a dozen homeowner groups is looking forward to its Sept. 16 hearing in Howard County Circuit Court.

Also, the State Highway Administration expressed concern about the project's impact on traffic.

In a letter Tuesday to Planning Board Chairman Robert Geiger, Neil J. Pedersen, SHA director of the office of planning and preliminary engineering, said again that any access point onto Route 216 would have to function at no less than a "D" level of service, or about 80 percent of the road's capacity.

Pedersen said the proposal would require Route 216 between U.S. 29 and All Saints Road to be widened to six lanes, the bridge over Interstate 95 would have to be widened, and that SHA has no plans "to undertake such a project."

Rouse associate general counsel James D. Lano objected to the letter being presented to the board.

"It's a matter between [the Rouse Co.] and SHA," Lano said. "It's not a matter for these proceedings."

The Rouse planned community for North Laurel is further along in the approval process than two other mixed-use plans -- Cherrytree Park in Scaggsville and G&R Maple Lawn Inc. in Fulton.

Together, the three developments could add more than 2,500 residential units in the southeastern corner of Howard.

Last night, Rouse officials outlined construction plans for the North Laurel proposal and said building could begin in 2001 if all approvals are granted.

Rouse plans 395 single-family homes, 500 townhouses and 250 apartments; more than 1.2 million square feet of employment space; 100,000 square feet of retail and service space; and 183 acres of open space.

Rouse officials said that in accordance with Zoning Board recommendations, 240 homes would be built in 2001 and 120 units a year after that. Development would begin west of I-95.

Rouse said employment development would begin in 2002 on 26 acres north of Whiskey Bottom Road. A retail center on the western tract and south of Gorman Road cannot be built until a loop road connected to Route 216 is completed.

Pub Date: 6/17/99

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