Group to make decision on wider study

U.S. 40

Inclusion of Turf Valley is on meeting agenda

Ellicott City

April 14, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Members of a task force considering the future of U.S. 40 will decide at their meeting tomorrow whether to include in their study area one of the few undeveloped parcels within the Ellicott City corridor: Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center.

The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning has already expanded the boundaries of the study west to the intersection with Interstate 70.

The area includes parts of Marriottsville Road and the areas of Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center between U.S. 40 and the Little Patuxent River, which runs through the western and southern part of the property.

Marc Norman, who leads a coalition of Ellicott City homeowners concerned about the effects of planned residential and commercial development at Turf Valley, argued before the study began that the entire 800-acre property should be included. He and other nearby residents have said that the commercial and residential development approved for Turf Valley in the 1980s before growth controls were enacted would overwhelm crowded roads and schools.

The new boundaries "contain physical ground but none of the development that's going to take place at Turf Valley," he said.

Frank Martin, who lives in Turf Valley Overlook, said that it didn't make sense to leave the largest undeveloped source of economic development along U.S. 40 outside of the study. "The only virgin land is Turf Valley," he said.

Louis Mangione, vice president for development for Mangione Family Enterprises and a member of the task force, has said that he does not feel the property should be included because the study focused specifically on the existing retail strip.

"Why Turf Valley would be included is beyond me," Mangione said yesterday. "We've almost finished the Route 40 Task Force."

Traffic concerns

Stephen M. Johns, a county planner, said the new boundaries of the study would allow the task force to address traffic concerns at other intersections, including Marriottsville Road.

The focus of the study, which was recommended in the 2000 General Plan, has always been on parcels fronting U.S. 40, as well as existing businesses and higher-density residential zones, Johns said.

The group's recommendations about land use, appearance and transportation will influence the Howard County Council in the fall as it makes final zoning decisions for properties set aside from the comprehensive rezoning process.

Since it first met in October, the task force has discussed U.S. 40's strengths and weaknesses, traffic patterns and potential land uses. Future sessions include tomorrow's discussion of streetscape and site design.

A public meeting will be held June 15 to allow people to comment on some of the proposals before the task force finalizes its findings on what was originally a seven-mile stretch in Ellicott City from Howard's border with Baltimore County to Turf Valley Road.

Part of the challenge, Johns said, is determining what should be addressed within the next 10 years and what priorities could then influence the county's plans beyond that point.

A market analysis prepared for the task force stated that Ellicott City's demographics create an attractive consumer base for retail and service businesses.

Heavy retail demand

Although the demand for retail far surpasses that for offices, mixed-use developments combining offices with other businesses "potentially could fuel office demand," Johns said.

Specific underserved segments of the market include sit-down restaurants, hotels, furniture and sporting goods stores as well as an upscale supermarket, according to the analysis.

Although the corridor's few remaining opportunities for development are the major constraint on its long-term viability, the market report indicated that extending commercial zoning farther west along U.S. 40 could entice businesses to abandon the thoroughfare and leapfrog to newer buildings there.

A balance needs to be established between having enough land so there is some level of retail competition and not so much that it cannibalizes existing properties, Johns said.

But he added that "if a vacancy did happen, maybe that's the opportunity for the property owner to think about redevelopment or some sort of modernization of their facility to be more competitive" with undeveloped sites.

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