RiverWood plan draws residents' ire

Proposal for housing at airport site is topic of lengthy council hearing

Laurel

December 17, 2003|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Council members have heard what the public thinks about a developer's plan to turn a west county airport into a housing subdivision - and now they must decide if they want to allow RiverWood over the objection of local pilots and residents.

Monday night's council meeting dragged into early yesterday morning, postponing possible action on the Polm Cos. proposal. Nearly 60 people spoke at the meeting, almost all of them opposed to the developer's plan for condominiums and townhouses.

That pushed the meeting into the morning hours, and the council cannot vote on or introduce legislation after midnight.

The Millersville developer wants to build 641 townhouses and condominiums at Suburban Airport, a Laurel airstrip that houses nearly 70 planes. Before Rick Polm can build the development, dubbed RiverWood, the land must be rezoned.

The county is in the final stages of implementing its small-area plan for that part of the county, and Polm Cos. officials want the council to amend the plan so it will permit the development. Although the council could introduce an amendment at the next council meeting Jan. 5, several council members said yesterday that they had not seen such a proposal.

Officials supporting Polm Cos. promote the homes as "work force housing." They will be priced between $190,000 and $300,000, Polm said.

Polm is under contract to buy the land. Currently, Polm Cos. could build about two dozen homes on the nearly 54-acre plot. Polm officials said last night that if they are not granted new zoning, they could upgrade the airport to hold 300 planes. They conceded that the plan wasn't ideal because it would cause more planes to fly over nearby homes.

Their airport expansion proposal made residents, such as John August of Laurel, more upset. "They're trying to say, `If you don't give us what we want, we'll give you something horrible,'" August said.

Pilots oppose the development plan because they want the airport to remain as it is.

Flanked by signs displaying drawings of townhouses under blue skies and a tree-lined entryway, Polm consultant John Pantelides told the council that teachers, police officers and firefighters are moving elsewhere because they can't afford to live in Anne Arundel.

Two council members, Barbara D. Samorajczyk of the Annapolis area and Pamela G. Beidle of Linthicum, have said they oppose the development plan. Council Chairman C. Edward Middlebrooks has said he would abstain on any vote because he co-owns a plane at the airport.

That leaves four council members. One would have to introduce an amendment and the others would all have to support it for RiverWood to be allowed.

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