Hearing to focus on retail project

Residents divided over proposed commercial center

January 14, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

A disagreement brewing among Edgewater neighbors over development at Lee Airport, including plans to build a retail village along Route 2, could blow up at an Anne Arundel County Council public hearing tonight.

The hearing will focus on the Edgewater/Mayo Small Area Plan. Expected to attend are residents who worked on the plan, which includes a commercial center at the Lee property, and others who object to the project.

"All of the zoning aspects of the plan benefit one community," said Peter J. Quirk, a resident of South River Park, who also worries about the impact development would have on the "already compromised" Warehouse Creek.

Recently, Quirk helped organize a rally to protest the development. Protesters carried signs that read "Stop killing Warehouse Creek."

Residents are divided over the plan that was worked out - some say behind closed doors - between the Lee family, which owns the airport and about 150 acres, and Edgewater Beach homeowners who have worked closely with county officials in recent years as part of a long-term planning and zoning process.

Representatives from both sides met Thursday with Council member John J. Klocko III to try to reach a consensus, but failed. The Crofton Republican said he hopes the public hearing will provide another chance for compromise.

"I don't think the parties are as far away as they think," Klocko said Friday.

Residents who worked out the deal for the commercial center with the Lees worry that any change to the small area plan might wipe out thousands of hours of work.

"Our community ... [has] been negotiating for close to three years to protect a substantial portion of the [Lee] property in exchange for a very nicely done commercial center," said John Greene, a member of the Edgewater/Mayo Small Area Planning Committee and past president of the Edgewater Beach Citizens Association.

Greene and many of his neighbors say they started talking with the Lee family years ago in an effort to allow C. Van Lee, the current manager of the airport, and his family to take advantage of an expansion of Route 2, but also protect homeowners from a glut of new houses, shops and traffic.

"This is a reasonable compromise, not a greedy plan," said David A. Simison, an attorney who represents the Lees. Simison is putting together a detailed development agreement with 11 pages of covenants between landowners and residents that he says will limit new houses and commercial growth, and preserve and protect about 60 acres of open space.

The Lee Farm Conservancy, made up of residents and Lee family members, would review all development plans to make sure they followed the agreement, and would enforce storm water management rules, said Simison.

But not everyone is convinced that the documents will protect the larger Edgewater area - which includes the neighborhoods of Chestnut Hill Beach, Edgewater Beach/Sunny Side, Southdown Shores and South River Park - from big-box development.

Some neighborhood groups worry that the papers might not hold up in court. Instead, some residents want to have the Lee property reclassified for "deferred development," which would delay rezoning to give everyone more time to ponder alternatives.

Quirk said that no one is trying to block the Lee family's right to develop the site. But, he said, the process should have included more community input.

According to a proposed master plan prepared for the county by a local architect, the commercial center would be situated between Collison-Lee Lane and Mayo Road. A service road, which the State Highway Administration decided to put in when it began work to expand Route 2 from four lanes to six, would allow residents to shop at the center without adding to traffic on Route 2.

The service road idea was embraced by members of the Edgewater/Mayo Small Area Planning Committee and expanded north to Virginia Avenue and south to Pike Ridge Road to provide more options for local traffic. However, some residents of Southdown Shores complained that they didn't want Route 2 traffic diverted to residential streets.

Fred H. Riedel, president of the Southdown Shores Community Association, said that commercial development should be focused in the Mayo Road corridor, where the county has already designated an area for commercial revitalization.

An amendment to the small area plan proposed by Klocko and Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk, an Annapolis Democrat, during a previous meeting would set the northern boundary of the service road south of Virginia Avenue and the southern boundary just south of Mayo Road.

The hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Arundel Center, 44 Calvert St., Annapolis. If no amendments are made to the plan, it could be adopted at a council meeting Jan. 22.

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