High stakes at Maple Farms

Howard County: Proposed development in Fulton could be arrested by ill-timed proposal.

June 27, 2000

A PROPOSAL THAT tosses more roadblocks in front of the Maple Farms development must be quickly rejected as unwise if not illegal.

Councilmen Allan Kittleman and Christopher Merdon want developers Greenebaum & Rose to curtail and slow the building proposed for the old Iager Farm in Fulton.

The Kittleman-Merdon proposal would permit no more than 2 units per acre, down from 2.3. Zoning actually allows as many as 3 units per acre.

The late-hour proposal would also delay the project until major highway improvements are completed.

A construction schedule that would bring housing on line without creating traffic jams is reasonable. But waiting for completion is not.

The councilmen are hearing that their proposal amounts to a taking of private land by government -- because, in effect, it could put the land out of reach of developers.

An underlying gambit seems transparent: This approach could kill the project. In that event, developers could be reluctant to suggest anything anywhere in Howard.

More than two dozen hearings have been held to consider objections. Reasonable adjustments may be necessary, but to accept major new proposals at this stage would amount to gross unfairness.

The Howard County Council, sitting as a zoning board, will now consider the proposal along with the expert testimony it has accumulated from public hearings. A critical assessment is due on traffic congestion that will or won't be caused.

The most cynical assessment of the Republican proposal is that it forces the developer into a lawsuit that would consume years of time.

Citizens and developer -- and experts for both -- have been heard. Now public officials must decide. They must do so in a way that assures all concerned, including the developer, that procedure has been followed scrupulously.

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