Cattail dining area debated

Townhouse hearing vexes participants

November 21, 2001|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Glenwood residents appalled by the idea of townhouses being built in western Howard County struggled last night to testify against the proposal on the one subject still open to debate - the development's common dining area.

Members of the county Board of Appeals, who are considering only that aspect of the proposed seniors-only housing complex, appeared as frustrated as the opponents. As of 9 p.m., after repeated admonitions to residents to stay on topic, the board had not voted on the project.

"I'd just like to get back to the one reason we're here," said board member Pat Patterson after about 1 1/2 hours of testimony.

The project is drawing passion from residents because, if approved, it would introduce townhouses to western Howard County for the first time. Many attending the hearing last night said they had learned about the proposal only recently.

But the plan for 116 upscale townhouse-style condo units on 58 acres near Cattail Creek Country Club in Glenwood has a long history in the Howard zoning files.

Board members approved a similar plan in 1998, but a year later the decision was overturned by the Howard County Circuit Court. Judge Lenore R. Gelfman found that the developer's plan to have residents use a dining facility at the nearby country club did not satisfy requirements for a common dining area.

Developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr. persuaded the state Court of Special Appeals to send the plan back to the county board so it could consider the dining issue. This time, he is proposing an on-site facility without a kitchen, but with food brought in by Nixon's Farm, a catering business in West Friendship.

If the board approves the revised plan for the dining area, Reuwer could begin to build the townhouses. If approval is not granted, the townhouse proposal would be blocked.

Opponents of the development, known as the Villas at Cattail Creek, still consider it an unwelcome precedent-setter that would bring a more urban, crowded look into the single-family housing mix of the rural west.

"I've built three homes in western Howard County, and every time, I had to have 1 to 3acres," said Greg Rogers, who lives near the proposed development in Cattail Ridge, before the hearing began.

The Glenwood parcel is zoned for one single-family house per 4.25 acres, but Reuwer's project would be permitted if the board grants a special exception for senior housing.

Last spring, the board approved an alternate plan of 25 detached houses on 19 acres of the parcel, which Reuwer submitted while he waited for his townhouse plan to wend its way through the appeals courts. But he said in September that he prefers the townhouses - and, he said, the seniors on a waiting list for the Villas at Cattail Creek feel the same way.

He expects the units to sell for $300,000 to $400,000 each.

That's a far cry from some of the houses nearby, residents said. "This whole thing does not belong next to the people with million-dollar homes in Cattail Creek and Cattail Ridge," said Patti Tetro, a Columbia resident who bought a lot in Cattail Ridge this year.

Barbara Sollner-Webb, a Laurel resident who sits on the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission's environmental advisory committee, told the board that people living outside Howard County are worried about the plan, too. Their drinking water - which comes from reservoirs affected by land use in western Howard - could be harmed by the project, she said.

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