1st Maple Lawn homes will be sold by lottery

9 single-family dwellings to be on the list Saturday

May 16, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

The first nine homes at Maple Lawn Farms, a 507-acre mixed-use community in Fulton that spawned months of debate about smart vs. slow growth, will be sold by a lottery Saturday.

Rockville-based homebuilders Mitchell & Best Group LLC announced the number to nearly 400 potential homebuyers who attended a meeting last week at the Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville.

"We can only build them so fast," Mitchell & Best President John Corgan said after the meeting. He said the company did not want to sell the homes too far away from their completion, and added that it expected to release another nine homes late next month.

Miller and Smith, another Maple Lawn Farms builder, also is considering a lottery, representatives said last week. The company will release 48 single-family homes and 58 townhouses in the fall.

The Mitchell & Best lottery is designed to prevent people from waiting overnight or sleeping in cars to ensure they have a place in line, said Bob Mitchell, chairman and chief executive officer of the company.

"We think that's a little harsh, a little uncivilized," he said.

The single-family homes, which start at $629,000, will be available to move in to as early as January, Corgan said.

In 1999, Maple Lawn's developers, Greenebaum & Rose Associates, proposed a "traditional neighborhood development" on the turkey farm at U.S. 29 and Route 216, integrating shops, restaurants, offices, homes and recreation space in a pedestrian-friendly design.

The more urban atmosphere in a suburban setting, combined with the proximity to Washington, attracted District of Columbia resident Kristina Leary to the meeting. She hoped to use the proceeds of the sale of her U Street townhouse toward the purchase of a Maple Lawn home.

"We thought, `It's right outside of the city. We could take advantage of the city if we wanted,'" she said before the meeting.

When the development was proposed, some area residents opposed the plans, fearing that the influx of people would overwhelm roads and schools and change the face of southern Howard.

"The citizens felt it was out of character with the surroundings," said John Taylor, a Highland resident who led much of the opposition.

In 2000, after more than 30 public meetings, the Howard County Council, sitting as the county zoning board, approved phase-in plans for the community's 1,116 residential units and more than 1 million square feet of commercial space to be built over more than a decade.

About 200 single-family homes and townhouses will be built over the next two years, said Greenebaum Vice President Charlie O'Donovan.

Taylor said that after 3 1/2 years, he no longer has bad feelings about the development, but he does have animosity for the members of the County Council who approved it, particularly Guy Guzzone, a Democrat who represents the area.

But Guzzone said last week that phased-in developments such as Maple Lawn give the county more time to prepare. Several U.S. 29 interchange improvements have been completed, for example.

He compared it with what he described as "scattershot" projects expected in western Howard as a new elementary school relieves crowding and, as a result, opens up that region to new homes.

"If you don't have the phasing, that is much more difficult to plan for," he said.

O'Donovan also announced at last week's meeting that the company had acquired an additional 95 acres.

Company officials expect to petition the County Council this summer to amend Maple Lawn's plan to include the land, said Stewart J. Greenebaum, a founding partner of Greenebaum & Rose.

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