Planned land sale by YMCA progresses

Association to hold 3 meetings on possible development next week

March 21, 2001|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

The Howard County YMCA will hold three members-only meetings next week to discuss plans for its Montgomery Road property, which could include selling part of the land for development as a Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, a YMCA official said yesterday.

In the fall, the YMCA said it was exploring a sale of 4 acres of its 11-acre property to developer J. Chris Pippen to help fund construction of a state-of-the-art facility on the remaining land.

At that point, the YMCA and Pippen said they were considering several possible uses for the land to be sold.

Yesterday, Diane Schmidt, YMCA marketing and membership director, said plans for the property are progressing.

"We don't know what's concrete, but Lowe's has been mentioned, and it looks like it's solidifying," Schmidt said.

In addition to next week's forums, the YMCA will hold additional meetings next month for members of area homeowners associations, Schmidt said.

Residents, especially those in the nearby Wheatfield neighborhood, have expressed concerns about the addition of a large retailer to an area dominated by the Long Gate shopping center, which includes a Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Target.

"The more big stuff they put in there, the more it eats into neighborhoods, advancing the line of where people don't want to live," said Shelley Wygant, a resident of College Road in Ellicott City. "Something like this should be stopped."

Howard County Zoning Board, which is made up of the five County Council members, would have to approve rezoning the 4-acre parcel to commercial before a Lowe's could be built.

Three years ago, Wheatfield Homeowners Association helped defeat a proposal by Pippen to convert a 6-acre stretch of six homes west of the YMCA into a strip mall.

Owners of the homes had supported the plan, arguing before the Zoning Board that that section of Montgomery Road had become unsuitable for residential use after the construction of Long Gate in 1995.

The board defeated that rezoning request by a 3-1 vote in 1998. But Pippen has expressed confidence that a rezoning request for YMCA land would stand a better chance today because this proposal would be more detailed than the previous one.

"It's like the Terminator - you kill him and then two minutes later he creeps up and he's after you again," Wygant said of the rezoning requests.

YMCA of Central Maryland's executive director, Lee Jensen, said last fall that the organization needs a new facility in Ellicott City to provide its 6,000 or so Howard County members with a broader range of services than can be accommodated at the cramped 35-year-old building.

As of last fall, plans called for the new YMCA to include two pools, a gym with two basketball courts and a 4,000-square-foot child-care room.

Next week's forums, at the YMCA's program room, will be from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

"We'll talk about traffic and lighting, the frontal view of YMCA, the general facade and color," Schmidt said.

"It'll be mostly questions and answers for members - anything related to the land in question."

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