YMCA to sell land to developer

Sale would help pay for proposed $9 million complex

Lowe's store is planned

Ellicott City

March 27, 2001|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

The Howard County YMCA plans to sell 4 acres of its Montgomery Road property to a developer for the future site of a Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, YMCA officials said last night.

At a membership meeting, YMCA officials said the deal with developer J. Chris Pippen will help finance about a third of a $9 million YMCA facility to be built on its remaining 8 acres.

"We were approached by a developer who said, `I'm interested in purchasing the front 4 acres, and in exchange this is what we'll give you,' and there was a dollar sign attached to it," YMCA branch executive Lyndon Murray said. "We got ecstatic about it because it would mean enhancing the quality of life for families and kids here in Howard County."

Under the plan, Pippen will combine the YMCA's 4 acres with 13 acres acquired from homeowners and Bethel Baptist Church, just west of the YMCA, to make room for Lowe's. The 17 acres for the store will include 680 parking spaces.

Primary access to the store would be by a new road extending straight across Montgomery Road from Long Gate Parkway that would also serve the new YMCA.

The plans call for the church to give land where its current parking lot is to Lowe's in exchange for gaining land to its west, where it will build a new parking lot. Pippen has arranged to purchase the six homes along the road, which would be razed.

The YMCA acknowledged in November that it was considering a deal with Lowe's, but last night represented its first full airing of the planned sale. The proposal will require the approval of the county Zoning Board, which is made up of the five County Council members.

Murray said the YMCA needs a new facility to provide its 6,000 or so Howard County members with more options than can now be offered in the cramped, 35-year-old building. Plans call for the new YMCA to include a warm-water therapy pool in addition to a lap pool, a gym with two basketball courts, a teen center and a 4,000-square-foot child-care room.

Members liked the plans for the new facility but wondered whether a Lowe's would worsen traffic congestion.

Traffic engineer Mickey Cornelius answered that the estimated 250 cars Lowe's would bring at rush hour would be offset by improvements scheduled for the junction of U.S. 29 and Route 100, where congestion now forces about 250 shortcut-seeking cars an hour onto Montgomery Road.

The proposal would also add a third westbound lane on Montgomery Road from Long Gate Parkway to U.S. 29, he said.

Word of the deal has prompted worry among neighbors who say the area has enough big stores thanks to the Long Gate shopping center.

Three years ago, neighbors defeated a proposal by Pippen to rezone 6 acres adjacent to the YMCA for commercial use.

To prepare for a new zoning battle, neighbors have resurrected a group called Montgomery Road Citizens for Responsible Growth, which will meet at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Glen Mar United Methodist Church.

The YMCA will hold meetings for neighbors next month.

Last night, YMCA board Chairman Mark Moxley argued that the deal would offer a cohesive solution to the jumble of homes, big stores and community centers that now prevails on Montgomery Road between Long Gate Parkway and U.S. 29.

"It puts this area to bed, so to speak," he said.

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