Board hears office foes

Neighbors oppose rezoning of 21 acres at Routes 100, 103

`Ideal residential location'

Developer says land unsuitable for homes since road was built

April 26, 2001|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

Residents opposed to rezoning 21 acres at the junction of Routes 100 and 103 contested last night a developer's claim that the 1998 opening of Route 100 made the lots unfit for residential housing.

Ahsan Kahn has requested rezoning for two residentially zoned lots he owns - a 17-acre parcel at the northeastern corner of the junction and a 4-acre parcel at the southeastern corner. Developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr., who is working with Kahn, has argued that the opening of Route 100 three years ago has made the parcels more suitable for office towers than for homes and that the county badly needs more office space.

Neighbors of the parcels rejected that argument last night, telling the Zoning Board that their happiness living near Route 100 and the increased value of their homes since the highway's opening proved the developer wrong.

"We know better than anyone how Route 100 has changed the neighborhood because we live there," said Howard Weinstein, president of the Pembroke Homeowners Association. "Route 100 has provided easy access to Baltimore, Washington and Annapolis and made this an ideal residential location."

The Kahn request has attracted extra scrutiny because many believe it could help determine the future character of the Route 100 corridor, where townhouses and new office buildings vie for dominance.

In particular, residents and county officials believe the case could affect the use of open parcels at the intersection's other two corners, which are also zoned for residential use.

In his request, Kahn argues that the Zoning Board, which is made up of the five County Council members, erred when it zoned the parcels for residential use in 1993, maybe because it thought the highway would cross the area at a different location.

Resident Craig M. Bruce dismissed this last night, saying records prove that the board knew full well that Route 100 would bisect the two parcels, and still zoned it residential.

It was "insulting" to the board, Weinstein said, to suggest that the board didn't know what it was doing in 1993.

"It defies common sense that the board couldn't figure out that when you build a six-lane highway, you get traffic and noise," Weinstein said. "But that didn't change the area into a commercial wonderland."

Residents noted the State Highway Administration's concern that office towers would further complicate the busy junction. The southern parcel would be reached by Wesley Lane, a small road off Route 103 that serves only homes, and residents worry sharing it with office workers would be a safety hazard.

Leaders of the Lyndwood Homeowners Association have agreed to a compromise with Kahn that would limit development on the northern parcel to an 85-unit retirement community and a single office tower.

But many Lyndwood residents remain opposed to the rezoning, and angry at their neighborhood leaders for compromising.

Reuwer has tried to work out a compromise to limit the southern parcel to housing for senior citizens, too, with no luck so far. Residents say the deal being offered proves that housing is feasible on the parcel after all.

In addition, Weinstein said, if the developers really want to build only senior citizen housing, they could do it without a zoning change - they just wouldn't be able to build it as densely. That proved that Kahn didn't need rezoning to make use of the property, Weinstein said.

"Even with a smaller number of units, [the developer] is not being denied a chance to make a profit," he said.

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