Stymied by vocal opposition and a complex zoning process, developers who wanted to build a retail and residential village on Bestgate Road near Annapolis now say they are likely to build only single-family homes and townhouses.
Michael DeStefano, president of Sturbridge Homes, said yesterday that his company and partner Erwin L. Greenberg & Associates of Baltimore are moving ahead with plans to build houses on the 54-acre property, which has been slated for various development scenarios during the past several years.
"In my mind, we are making the commitment to go residential," said a disappointed DeStefano, whose company built the Village at Waugh Chapel in Odenton and had its sights set on a mixed commercial and residential project near Annapolis.
Village at Bestgate opponents said yesterday that they would embrace a residential-only project because it wouldn't interfere with the county's plans to create a retail and residential hub in the Parole area.
"We look forward to working with the DeStefanos in planning a single-family community," said Chris Swatta, a Severn Forest resident and member of the Parole Growth Management Area Committee, an advisory group that oversees the Parole project. "We'll take them at their word that that is what they are going to do. I hope they are serious this time."
To build the Village at Bestgate - a plan that called for 120,000 square feet of retail space, 65,000 square feet of office space and 224 condominiums - developers lobbied County Executive Janet S. Owens, a Democrat from Millersville, to rezone the property from residential to mixed-use commercial.
Two weeks ago, developers said they were running out of time and money. They asked Owens to introduce long-awaited comprehensive zoning legislation for the Annapolis area, including the Bestgate property, at a council meeting Monday. She did not, and developers admitted defeat.
"It's too bad," said John S. Pantelides, senior vice president of Greenberg & Associates, after the meeting Monday. "We'll probably go with the housing."
The Owens administration has said it intends to introduce a zoning bill for the Annapolis area at the same time as legislation to redevelop the Parole area, including the shuttered Parole Plaza.
"The primary reason to review these two plans together is that integral to both plans is the transportation plan," said Planning Officer Denis Canavan. "Land use and zoning recommendations must be considered in light of the existing road network and future road projects."
Annapolis resident John Flood, who organized an opposition rally at the council meeting Monday, said he would continue to monitor the Bestgate Road development. He worries that a council majority supports commercial zoning at the site. If the council were to approve a zoning change, it would fall to Owens to use her veto power. Flood said he isn't confident she would do so.
"I've lived in Anne Arundel County my whole life, and I have seen enough to know that things aren't always what they seem," he said.
Flood and other members of the Parole advisory committee are concerned that any commercial growth at the Bestgate site would divert investment from the Parole area, including the Parole Plaza, an eyesore that has been in need of economic revitalization for years.
"When this issue re-emerges, and it will, the council should listen to their constituents," Flood said. "If they don't, there will be a price to pay at election time."