Panel debates focus on Turf Valley

U.S. 40

Task force study excludes most of the development

`This is not the forum'

Some residents say plan for site too vital to ignore

Howard County

July 12, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

After 10 meetings and months of work, tension is growing within Howard County's U.S. 40 task force over how much attention should be paid to intense development plans for Turf Valley - a huge area that is mostly outside the study area's boundaries.

With only a few more meetings planned before a final report is issued this fall, some members of the task force have expressed resentment at attempts by homeowners fighting the Turf Valley project to make it a focus of the committee's work, while others say it's too big to be ignored.

"I'm not at all unsympathetic to their views, but this is not the forum," said Ann Jones, a task force member. She wants the committee to stay closer to its original charge - to find ways to improve the corridor and keep it vital as newer areas like Waverly Woods and Turf Valley grow.

"There are people who have been dealing with traffic issues for 20, 30 or 40 years who deserve to be listened to," said Jones, who lives in Valley Meade, east of Turf Valley.

But Grace Kubofcik, who represents the Ellicott City Residents Association on the committee, said Turf Valley "is an economic engine on the west end of the study area - a big economic engine. This is going to be the driver" for what happens along the corridor.

"I want people looking back to say that this task force considered this," Kubofcik said.

Louis Mangione, vice president for development at Mangione Family Enterprises and a member of the task force, presented a concept plan for the Turf Valley property at a meeting Thursday evening. He said the family plans to put more than 1,600 additional homes - there already are 170 residences there - and nearly 500,000 square feet of office and retail space on its 809-acre golf and hotel/conference center at the corridor's western end.

"We are ready to proceed," said Mangione, who added that the project will take "a minimum of 10 years, if not longer."

Marc Norman and Frank Martin, who represent a group of Turf Valley homeowners, said the county can't afford to push such a big development off center stage.

"This has flown in under the radar," Norman said about the 1985 county approval for Turf Valley's zoning that makes it exempt from growth controls adopted years later.

The mostly green maps shown to people who bought the first homes at Turf Valley, he and other buyers said, deceived them into thinking the land would mainly remain as it is.

"What you don't see is a county that looks like Montgomery County," Norman said, referring to the congested Washington suburb to Howard's south.

The men said that if Turf Valley reaches the full potential Mangione outlined for the committee, it will overwhelm roads and already crowded schools.

"Our ultimate goal is to get a comprehensive study of the impact" of the Mangiones' plans, Norman said.

But others on the committee feel that he and other Turf Valley residents are pushing their issue too hard.

"I think Route 40 in general has waited. All of a sudden Turf Valley has come in and tried to snatch this," said Lynne Bergling, who represents the St. Johns Community Association on the task force.

"Why didn't they look at what their own property was zoned" when they bought homes, Bergling said.

Stephen M. Johns, the county planner advising the task force, resisted the efforts of Martin and Norman to involve themselves in the meeting.

"The concern is that you get into [broader] Howard County issues. This is not the General Plan," he said at one point, referring to the county's 20-year guide plan.

The two men accused Johns of not allowing them five minutes to address the group after promising them rebuttal time after Mangione's presentation, but Johns said that "they had their say" through questions that sparked discussion of Turf Valley.

He and others pointed out that County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, a western county Republican whose district includes Turf Valley, has created a separate committee to examine the Turf Valley issue, and Norman participates in that.

Norman said that because the Mangiones have sought a zoning change that would allow 2.25 units per gross acre instead of two units per acre, he and others hope to persuade the county zoning board this fall to change it for less density. Half the land must remain open space.

The group is to meet again July 22 at 5:30 p.m. in the George Howard building.

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