Maple Lawn's legacy

Surveillance: Howard County's newest development needs citizen monitors more than ever.

September 22, 2000

THEY WON'T BE happy to hear it, but the citizens of Fulton and the county council must continue their work at Maple Lawn Farms.

The council, sitting as a zoning board, approved the 500-acre, mixed-use project Wednesday evening by a 3-2 vote. Some members of the council called their action a compromise because 52 houses were removed from the developer's plan.

The opponents, who struggled against the project for more than a year, decried the characterization of "compromise." A minor reduction in housing construction hardly changed the nature of something they wanted to kill outright.

But the developer could have pushed for much higher density, and the county wanted him to. So Wednesday night's tweaking was only the last touch on a larger compromise.

Over a record number of hearings, the neighbors fielded an array of experts to augment their own remarkable expertise.

They have said they fear more traffic most of all.

With 1,116 or so new homes and an installation of job-producing commercial buildings, Fulton inevitably will have more cars and more congestion. The developer hopes many new residents will move there precisely so they can walk to work in one of the new buildings he's putting up. In general, he suggests, they will be less reliant on the automobile.

Maple Lawn Farms, therefore, will be a test of his theory. It is to the credit of the zoning board and the neighbors that no work may begin until 2004.

That time will be needed to make critically important road improvements.

No doubt it will seem a bitter pill, but the citizens of Fulton may now be obliged to maintain pressure to be certain that promises are kept. The county and the developer, ideally, would be their allies.

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