Rezoning sought in Hickory Ridge

Residents oppose plan for Walgreens pharmacy

December 03, 2003|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

A piece of land across the street from Hickory Ridge Village Center in Columbia has long been a residential lot -- and the community wants it to stay that way.

But the lot's owner, a subsidiary of Mangione Family Enterprises, wants the Howard County Council, through its comprehensive rezoning process, to change the area for commercial use so the family can develop a Walgreens pharmacy.

After the village board and residents protested the plan, Louis Mangione, vice president for development of Mangione Family Enterprises, met with residents during a village board meeting Monday night, hoping to reach a compromise and earn their support.

However, the crowd of about 55 residents told Mangione they are adamantly against the plan, fearing a pharmacy will bring too much traffic to the area and compete with the village center. When village board Chairwoman Linda Hitzelberger asked if anyone wanted to consider different zoning, the room was silent.

One house is on the lot near Cedar Lane and Freetown Road, where the Mangione family wants to build a 15,000-square-foot, one-story pharmacy that would have a drive-through window. Mangione said he was willing to work with the residents to develop a list of covenants that would satisfy some of their concerns, such as determining an appropriate closing time.

However, the residents told Mangione that a large pharmacy would not mesh with the village center and expressed concern that it may put out of business the center's One Hour Photo, Sara's Cards & Gifts and Giant Food's pharmacy. They also pointed out there are many pharmacies throughout the area.

"For the life of me, I don't understand why you're proposing to [develop] another pharmacy," board member Tom Louden told Mangione.

Residents said they don't want the trees on the lot torn down and they want only homes built there.

"When you all moved in there, that area was zoned residential," board member David Zeitzer told the crowd. "Now they're changing the rules."

Mangione told the residents that part of what is driving the request is that Walgreens has approached the family. He tried to convince the crowd that the space is ideal for commercial use.

"If you have to put commercial use somewhere, this is the best place for it," he told the residents. "I recognize you don't want commercial use, that's coming across loud and clear."

In the comprehensive rezoning bill that the County Council is considering, the disputed parcel is part of 5 acres -- of which the family owns 4 -- between Cedar Lane and Owen Brown and Freetown roads that are slated for planned office research use. That would allow for banks, offices and restaurants, but not a business like a pharmacy.

On the other parcel next to the site slated for the Walgreens, the family wants to construct a one- or two-story office building in conjunction with the pharmacy, Mangione said.

The county undertakes the comprehensive rezoning every 10 years. A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Dec. 15, during which Richard Talkin, the Mangione family's lawyer, said he and Mangione will ask that the lot be amended for B1 use, which would allow for the pharmacy. The council could vote on the bill next month.

If the lot is not approved for B1 zoning but instead another type of commercial use, Mangione said, the family's second choice is to build a three-story office building that could be from 30,000 to 40,000 square feet.

Joan Lancos, a village resident and a former county Planning Board chairwoman, asked Talkin if the family will still negotiate with residents if it is successful in getting B1 zoning without the community's support.

Talkin said he and the Mangione family -- which owns Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center in Ellicott City -- would still be willing to "sit down and talk" with residents.

"We're not going to turn our back on the community, no matter what happens," Talkin said.

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