Owens won't give waiver to developers

Marley landowners willing to address school crowding issue

August 10, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Noting concerns about crowded schools, County Executive Janet S. Owens has said she would not grant a waiver to owners of nearly 1,000 wooded acres on the Marley Neck Peninsula who want to build 3,000 homes, a shopping center and a business park.

The decision is another setback for landowners Jane Nes and CSX Corp. of Baltimore, who teamed up on the mixed-development proposal in June after years of working on separate projects. But county officials say the property owners -- who hadn't officially asked for a waiver -- are willing to go back to the drawing board to address school capacity issues.

"It's something they have to deal with by law," said Thomas Andrews, who oversees the county Department of Planning and Code Enforcement.

He met yesterday with Bill Cromwell, an assistant vice president for realty operations with CSX Real Property, and Steve Donnelly, a regional land planner on Nes' project.

"They were generally upbeat, not downtrodden; they were pretty positive," Andrews said. "They know they have an uphill battle."

Donnelly said he couldn't comment on the meeting. Neither Nes nor Cromwell could be reached for comment.

County officials said Owens told Nes and CSX of her decision about two weeks ago. Owens must approve any project in areas with overtaxed schools.

"She has been saying that she was not in favor of doing waivers," said Marvin Bond, chief of staff for the county executive. "In point of fact, now she has said, `I'm not going to do this waiver.' But that doesn't mean that everything is dead."

The affected schools would be Solley Elementary, George Fox Middle and Northeast High. Chuck Yocum, supervisor of student demographics and planning for county schools, said the proposed development would "severely impact" the schools, though he didn't have school population projections available.

The property owners submitted their first joint development proposal to county officials in June. Nes owns about 280 acres between Marley Neck Boulevard and Solley Road, and CSX owns 600 acres on the west side of Marley Neck Boulevard.

The plan calls for the 3,000 residential units to be a mix of condominiums, townhouses and single-family dwellings, with 1,000 of those units outfitted for independent and assisted living for senior citizens. The project would be built over a 10- to 12-year period.

Nes and CSX said that in response to community concerns, they scaled back the number of homes by more than 1,000 and retained more open space. They also pledged to contribute about $3.5 million to offset the cost of building school additions to accommodate new students.

The 110-acre business park would include medical offices and a shopping center, with a grocery store, video store, bank and other neighborhood services.

The property owners have said their goal is to create a self-contained community that would reduce car trips in the congested Fort Smallwood and Pasadena areas.

County Councilwoman Shirley Murphy said the concept is a good one.

"I am very much in favor of long-range planning and supporting the Smart Growth initiative, which is exactly what these Tanyard projects are," the councilwoman said. "They're beautiful developments. You can work, shop and play all in your own community."

Many residents who live in the communities closest to the proposed development -- Solley and Marley Neck -- also support the project. Homeowners worry that otherwise, Nes and CSX may decide to seek to have their land rezoned for industrial use.

Both pieces of property, zoned for residential and commercial use, were originally zoned as industrial.

"Something will be done with the property sooner or later because the property owners aren't going to continue to pay taxes on something they can't use," said Casper Hackmann, 77, a lifelong Solley resident. He has praised Nes' efforts to respond to community concerns.

Hackmann says the county views the area as a dumping ground.

The surrounding area is home to two chemical manufacturing companies, a hazardous-waste landfill and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s Brandon Shores plant. Over the years, many residents have become community activists in an effort to hold off industrial development.

Most recently, the Solley community won a long-running battle against BGE, when the utility announced that it would stop dumping fly ash at its Brandon Woods Business Park. Residents claimed that the byproduct of burnt coal was an environmental and health hazard.

"Sewage plants, chemical factories -- everything that's been unsavory -- they put here," Hackmann said. "I'm afraid we're going to wind up with more unsavory things."

Sun staff writer Matthew Mosk contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 8/10/99

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