Developers offer details for Highland crossroads

Plans include turn lanes, expansion of meat market

Howard County

May 03, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Developers of two corners of western Howard County's Highland crossroads are preparing plans that they hope will ease traffic concerns while maintaining the area's rural character.

Operators of Boarman's Meat Market and the developers of a property once destined to become a large funeral home want to dedicate the front of their properties to create turn lanes to increase the capacity of the two-lane intersection that experiences frequent backups.

Boarman's, which has sold groceries and homemade sausages in Highland for 50 years, plans to triple the size of its shop, incorporate the nearby pharmacy and put gasoline pumps in the rear.

"We want to become a better service center to draw people to the corner," said owner George Boarman.

Across the street, Souder Builders plans to knock down the Little House of Treasures building and construct a replica of it 50 feet back - providing room for a turn lane.

In addition, the company has abandoned plans to build a funeral home in favor of office townhouses styled after the converted residential homes at the crossroads.

Rezoning's effects

The development proposals have been spurred by Howard's recent comprehensive rezoning, a practice of re-examining the direction of countywide growth every 10 years.

With the County Council's approval in February, about half an acre of the Boarmans' property was rezoned to a commercial district that allows gasoline stations. And after a compromise with the Greater Highland Crossroads Association, which opposed plans for the funeral home, the zoning lines of two of Souder's parcels were adjusted.

Since then, Donald Souder and his partner in the project, Kevin Bell, have met with the members of the association several times to get feedback. They also hope to garner support for a proposal to change one of the two parcels from residential zoning to allow offices during a rezoning process this fall.

Steven M. Johns, a county planner involved in the rezoning effort, said his department will meet with the stakeholders to discuss the intersection. The remaining two corners may also be redeveloped someday, he said.

"That's why we want it to be clear what the vision is for all four corners," Johns said.

Bell said the developers incorporated comments from the community into the designs drawn by Souder's architects.

"I think with each iteration, the building has gotten a little nicer, a little cleaner," he said before a recent meeting.

However, after spending months requesting county permission to build a funeral home that was denied, the developers are eager to get started on the commercial property.

"We have tried and tried to make ourselves available," Bell said at the meeting. "Given the time, we'd just like to get to the point where we can move forward."

Boarman's plans

Boarman's has taken an early step. It scheduled a preliminary meeting May 13 to inform the community about its request to build a service station to replace gasoline pumps removed in 1988.

The owners would like to have amenities such as prepared and gourmet foods and produce, a bakery and candy shop, Boarman said. He plans to use the current pharmacy building as a wine cellar to expand the selection housed in different nooks of the store.

"The store is no fun anymore," he said. "We can't do displays. I'm tired of these same walls."

And he hopes to lure customers from the Giant Food in nearby Clarksville by providing an amenity that area offers in abundance: gas.

But people won't be able to see the pumps from the road. "Our customers will know that the fuel pumps are there," said lawyer William E. Erskine, who represents the store. "We don't need to put up neon lights."

If the plan is approved, Boarman's will move its parking to the rear. Currently customers have unrestricted access to park in front of the building - a situation many say is dangerous for people passing through the intersection.

"We affectionately refer to it as malfunction junction," Erskine said.

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