Builders offer new plan for peninsula

Team of developers proposes 3,000 homes for Marley Neck

June 25, 1999|By Matthew Mosk | Matthew Mosk,SUN STAFF

Developers who have been lobbying for decades to build houses in the heavily industrial northern reaches of Anne Arundel County presented a new plan and some enticements to county officials this week in an attempt to finally get their project started.

In their first joint development proposal, builders Jane Nes and CSX Corp. asked for approval of 3,000 homes -- at least 1,000 of which will be restricted to senior citizens. They also pledged to contribute about $3.5 million to help offset the cost of building school additions to accommodate new students.

The developers initially proposed a mix of stores and more than 4,000 homes for their 450-acre project, but they were slammed by residents of the Marley Neck peninsula who feared traffic jams and crowded classrooms.

An attorney for CSX declined to comment on the revised plan submitted Wednesday. Nes said yesterday that traffic plans have been resolved and that both builders hope to settle the sticky issue of school capacity.

Schools that would be affected by the development include Solley Elementary School, George Fox Middle School and Northeast High School, according to county officials.

"We've had oodles of meetings on this, and the problem has always been that school capacity is a moving target," said Nes, who first proposed developing the land in 1974. "I'm hoping we'll make some progress this time."

County officials said they are "poring over it now."

"This is probably the largest residential development that the Marley Neck peninsula has ever seen," said Thomas Andrews, who oversees the county Department of Planning and Code Enforcement. "We're reviewing it very carefully."

Andrews said this latest proposal is significant because it comes jointly from the two developers. For years, he said, each had tried to saddle the other with the bulk of costs to increase traffic and school capacity.

Nes said both developers have a better chance at success if they work together.

"I think it's always easier to do something when people are in concert," she said.

What remains to be seen is how the community and County Executive Janet S. Owens -- elected last year on a slow-growth, schools-first platform -- will respond.

Because the developers would need a waiver from Owens to move forward, her analysis is key. She said she will review staff recommendations but will make certain schools can handle the additional burden before she signs anything.

Richard Ames, president of the Stony Creek Democratic Club, said his organization wrote to Owens urging her not to approve the new projects.

"We can't handle it," Ames said. "We're choked with traffic. The schools are full. It's too much."

But others believe this development, with proper safeguards against congestion and crowding, can work.

"There is a strong anti-growth feeling in the area, but these particular projects have been in the works a long time and have a degree of community support," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, whose 31st District includes the peninsula.

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