Zoning Board approves housing for seniors

350 homes to be built on 680-acres near landfill

January 31, 2003|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A plan to convert commercially zoned land next to Howard County's landfill to upscale senior housing in the Waverly Woods development near Ellicott City was approved, 4-1, by the Howard County Zoning Board late Wednesday.

Only Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican, dissented from a plan that would allow 350 houses for active people ages 55 and older on the 680-acre parcel between Route 99 and Interstate 70 near Marriottsville Road.

The housing would be built west of Marriottsville Road, south of Route 99, at the edge of the county's landfill and trash transfer station.

Developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr., said he wanted to change half the 330-acres now zoned for commercial uses to a zone for senior housing because "the I-70 corridor is not seen as an employment corridor. There's abundant employment land in the I-95, U.S. 1 corridor we basically can't compete with."

Reuwer said his original plan for Waverly was all residential, but he changed part of it on the urging of county officials. The 300,000 square feet of commercial space left "will satisfy any demand," he said.

The senior housing zone allows clustering of the $400,000 single-family homes and $350,000 townhouses, which Reuwer says will allow a 300-foot buffer between the homes and the landfill. Earlier zoning for half-acre lots would have forced houses for young families to the edge of the landfill.

Merdon said he wanted to stay consistent with his position in a 1999 case in which Reuwer argued that similar land nearby was not appropriate for residential use. "As much as I like the project, I wanted to be consistent," he said.

Board Chairman Ken Ulman, a west Columbia Democrat, said he voted to approve the change because "they met the criteria" of the new senior zone. "It looks like a great product," he said.

Reuwer argued that the county would reap more tax revenue from upscale housing for seniors than commercial office development. And he said seniors would generate almost 4,000 fewer vehicle trips than commercial tenants would.

Of the 787 families living in Waverly Woods, none attended the meeting to oppose the zoning change, he said. But three nearby residents did testify against the change.

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