A Rouse Co. proposal to significantly develop Columbia's Town Center could generate more than $78 million in county revenue by 2017, representatives for the development corporation told the county Zoning Board last night.
Rouse is planning to bring residential and commercial development to the 60-acre, crescent-shaped property behind Symphony Woods, which surrounds Merriweather Post Pavilion, in hopes of creating a vibrant downtown atmosphere in Columbia. In July, the Zoning Board asked the development company to study the fiscal impact of proposals involving different amounts of affordable housing.
After a seven-week delay to prepare the economic impact study, Rouse resumed its hearing before the board last night and presented its findings. The hearing is scheduled to resume at 8 o'clock tonight.
"This development in any case will develop net revenues for the county," said Paul Tischler, founder of Tischler & Associates Inc., the firm that developed the Rouse study projecting a potential $20.8 million to $78.8 million windfall for Howard County.
The county and the Columbia Association would receive the most money if 5 percent of the residential units were affordable housing.
The study examined the cumulative net revenue the county and Columbia Association would receive between next year and 2017, which is expected to be the first year after building in the area is completed.
Three scenarios were studied: constructing only commercial developments on the property; mixed-use development, with 5 percent of residential units as affordable housing and 10 percent as age-restrictive, which Rouse is proposing; and increasing the affordable housing to 10 percent.
If the land were developed commercially, the county would receive $20.8 million between next year and 2017, the study found.
If 10 percent of the residential units were age-restrictive and 5 percent dedicated to affordable housing, the county net revenue would be $78.8 million.
If the amount of affordable units was bumped up to 10 percent, the county would receive $75.5 million.
The association -- which would collect annual charges based on property value assessments -- would receive $6.9 million if the property was all commercial; $21.1 million if it had 5 percent of affordable housing and 10 percent age-restrictive; and $20.7 million if affordable housing was at 10 percent.
In the petition, Howard Research and Development Corp., a Rouse subsidiary, is asking to increase Columbia's maximum residential density to 2.5 dwellings units per acre from the current 2.35. That would result in 2,141 units, with Town Center receiving 1,600 of them.
The units would add 2,352 residents to Town Center, the study estimated. The area has about 4,200 residents.
The Zoning Board -- made up of the five County Council members -- first heard testimony on the petition July 23 and 24, but delayed further proceedings after requesting an economic impact study.
The county's Interfaith Coalition for Affordable Housing has been lobbying Rouse to increase the number of affordable units to 15 percent, maintaining that would be faithful to the original plan of Columbia, which was developed in 1967 as a town where people of all racial and economic backgrounds could live.
"We are trying to put pressure on the Rouse Company to really be faithful to the original vision of Columbia," Barbara Hope, the coalition's chairwoman, said before last night's hearing. "It's just not satisfactory that they are proposing 5 percent."