Luxury housing to join village

Dorsey's Search complex slated for incorporation

`It's a good compromise'

96-unit design is a result of negotiations, rezoning

Columbia

April 26, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

A row of nine houses behind the Dorsey's Search Village Center will soon become a luxury townhouse complex incorporated into the Columbia community, the developer said.

In a few weeks, J. Chris Pippen of Ellicott City will begin to process plans to construct 96 high-end homes on 8.3 acres to be called Dorsey Crossing, he said at a recent community meeting.

The evolution of this residential project from the original proposal to build a gas station and shops reflects months of discussion and negotiation with residents of Dorsey's Search. Many expressed concern about increased traffic as well as competition to the businesses in the village center.

"We didn't want to see all the merchants in a cutthroat war," said Jeffrey Marcus, chairman of the village board.

Initially zoned for about two single-family homes per acre, the properties were changed to a district that allows 15 homes per acre during the recent comprehensive rezoning process.

Every 10 years, Howard County re-evaluates the direction of development. Pippen first requested commercial zoning for the area, but county planners recommended higher-density housing instead. In February, the County Council agreed to change the zoning.

"I think it's a good compromise, considering where the community started and where the developer started," said County Councilman Ken Ulman, a Democrat who represents west Columbia and worked with the community and developer.

A 5.78-acre residential property at the intersection of Old Annapolis Road and Route 108 was recommended for a district that would allow offices, banks and senior housing, said Steven M. Johns, a county planner involved in the rezoning effort.

Laurel-based Tower Federal Credit Union hoped to open a branch at Route 108 and Columbia Road, but council members did not support that change.

"I like Tower Federal. I want them to be in our community," Ulman said. "If there was a comprehensive plan where they worked with the community and saw community needs met, I'd be willing to work with them."

`A great gateway'

Part of the discussion between the developer and Dorsey's Search residents included improvements to the intersection of Old Annapolis and Columbia roads, which some contend is unsafe.

Pippen discussed nearly $1 million in changes, including an additional lane along the front of the development on Old Annapolis Road and new turn lanes on Columbia Road.

The properties are Columbia outparcels, not owned or developed by the Rouse Co. when it incorporated Dorsey's Search in 1979. But the village board agreed to annex the properties when sold. As a result, the homes will be subject to the covenants governing Columbia, as well as its annual lien.

"It'll be a great gateway into the community. Certainly it'll be better than what is there now," said Larry Winston, who serves on the village board.

Project's details

Pippen said he has not selected a builder for the project, but the units will range from 20 to 24 feet wide with two-car garages accessed from the rear. "You end up with small courtyard effects," he said.

The cost of most homes will start at about $400,000. Ten percent of the total, however, will be scattered throughout the community as "moderate-income housing units" and will cost $140,000, a price based on a percentage of the median income in the Baltimore area.

"As a developer, it is a tremendous burden to put those in there," Pippen said. "As a Howard County citizen, it's the right thing to do."

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