Carroll tract plans closer

Security Development filing is for 90 lots on 270-acre property

180 acres to be preserved

October 18, 2001|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Development plans for a coveted tract of Ellicott City land once owned by a signer of the Declaration of Independence are coming into focus.

Security Development LLC wants to prepare lots for 90 homes on the 270-acre parcel it owns jointly with four members of the Carroll family, according to a sketch plan the company filed with the county Tuesday. The lots, clustered together, will be an acre each.

When people move into the subdivision, tentatively known as Homewood, they will live on courts with names like "Wexford" and "Castlebridge" -- a short walk from one of Howard County's largest houses, the striking $2.7 million castle built by a couple who won the Powerball lottery.

Developers who were interested in buying the 270-acre parcel -- but couldn't get it -- say it's one of the choicest tracts left in Howard, where buildable land is expected to be used up in 15 or 20 years. Security Development isn't about to disagree.

"I would expect that the housing will be among the most exclusive housing in the county," said Rob Moxley, vice president of the Ellicott City company.

The land is zoned for one house per 4.25 acres, or up to 63. But theoretically, the parcel could hold as many as 135 houses, if the developers take full advantage of a county regulation that allows them to increase the density by stripping the development rights off another tract in the county.

Moxley said his company, which intends to trade some density onto the property, purposely decided not to design the subdivision with as many houses as possible.

"Our objective was to create pods of lots that have an intimate feel, not simply line up the maximum lots that can possibly be fit on the property," he said. "It's our desire to create a special feel for the community, and that has always been the desire of the Carroll family."

`Delighted' with proposal

John Bernstein, director of the Maryland Environmental Trust, said yesterday that he's "delighted" the proposed plan preserves 180 acres of the tract. This summer, when it became clear the land was slated for homes, he had hoped the owners would consider limited development in exchange for conservation money or tax benefits.

"It's hard to do when there's tremendous value, tremendous development pressure," he said at the time.

The Carrolls are descended from founding father Charles Carroll, whose Doughoregan Manor home stands to the north of the 270 acres. The only home of a Declaration of Independence signer that is still in family hands, it once was part of an estate of more than 10,000 acres.

Two branches of the Carroll family owned the 270-acre property and were on the verge of battling its fate in court when they agreed to put the land up for auction.

The event in August drew many of the region's development bigwigs but boiled down to a face-off between relatives. Two developers, each paired with a branch of the family, bid up the price until Security Development won with an offer of $12.5 million.

Moxley said the subdivision's tentative title is taken from the original name of the area, one of Doughoregan Manor's many subestates. The land, set in Ellicott City's more rural side, is between Homewood Road and Manor Lane, north of Route 108. Some of it is fields; the rest is forest, with tulip poplars, oaks and maples.

Security Development, which does not build houses, will sell lots to builders and individuals after constructing roads and other infrastructure on the tract. Moxley said it is unclear how long that would take, in part because crowded schools can delay residential development.

Neighbors are vigilant

Until then, neighbors -- who realized homes on Homewood were inevitable -- are waiting and watching.

"I'm not surprised to see that they're going to be doing development on that particular property with that density because it appears to be so valuable," said Terrence C. McAndrews, a community activist in a nearby subdivision called Gaither Hunt.

Still, floodplains on the land could limit the developers to fewer homes than they proposed, he said.

McAndrews said that neighbors -- who organized last year to force a compromise on the location of an access road for a school for troubled youth being built in the area -- are paying close attention to make sure Homewood is well-designed. He said he is hoping Security Development will preserve the trees and follow the lay of the land instead of reshaping it.

"It's a very quiet little parcel, and there aren't many of them left," he said.

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