Two decades ago, when plans were laid for filling half of Turf Valley's 809 lush acres with buildings, Howard County officials couldn't foresee any store larger than what is now considered a quaint 18,000 square feet.
But modern, big-box stores are routinely five times that size. For commercial success, a much larger grocery store will be needed for the Columbia-style village center the Mangione family wants to build near a new Turf Valley entrance off Marriottsville Road, the developer told a citizens' committee studying the golf course development at a meeting yesterday.
The shopping center presentation was the committee's first look at the retail portion of the project.
The current plan is for a 65,000-square-foot supermarket built to look like a series of small stores and 54,000 square feet of other retail space- much more than the 72,000 square feet of retail originally planned. It also calls for a 60,000-square-foot office building and apartments
And although critics of the development liked the town center's looks at yesterday's meeting, they pointed to the increased retail space as a sign of the potential for crowded schools, congested roads and environmental problems as Turf Valley joins Howard's parade of growth.
"It was at 72,000 square feet [of retail]. Now it's 119,000 square feet," said Frank Martin, a Turf Valley resident upset at the prospect of hundreds more homes, offices and stores.
But the shopping center architect said the new concept should help ease traffic and keep residents closer to home.
"We're going to create a sense of a little town square," with fountains, outdoor tables, and textured brick crosswalks, said Charles Harker, an architect working on the project for Greenberg Commercial of Owings Mills.
The firm is also redeveloping the Parole Plaza shopping center near Annapolis and Hunt Valley Mall in Cockeysville.
Louis Mangione, vice president for development for Mangione Family Enterprises and a committee member, is seeking a zoning change to allow up to 2.5 homes an acre for a total of about 1,600 homes, instead of the two homes an acre approved in 1986, plus 440,000 square feet of commercial/retail space on the family's land.
Part of the request involves changing the size limits on the supermarket to meet modern standards.
The committee, created by western county Republican Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, is working to get accurate traffic, school and fiscal impact information by September so that the Robey administration and the County Council can use the panel's recommendations this fall.
By county law, the council must vote on any new zoning changes by Feb. 3 - one year after last year's once-a-decade comprehensive rezoning, Marsha McLaughlin, the county planning director, told the group.
Harker said the idea is to break up the design of the supermarket to make it look like a series of smaller shops. In addition, he said, the apartment building and a neighboring rear service area will surround parking lots, to help keep them out of sight.
"By doing a town square, you're going to keep traffic off the street," said Brian Gibbons, president of the Greenberg firm. The center might also attract shoppers who live father west, diverting some traffic from the more congested stretches east along U.S. 40.
Office workers will patronize the commercial center during the day, and residents will patronize it at night, he said.
Marc Norman, who lives in one of the 170 homes built at Turf Valley, is worried about the impact of the new proposal, but complimented Gibbons. He and Martin are fighting to reduce the number of new homes on the land.
"You present a very nice-looking building - very attractive," Norman told Gibbons.
But that did not lessen the tension between Norman, Martin and Mangione, which flared several times - including once over the chemicals used on Turf Valley's golf courses over the past 50 years.
"Where is this heading? Golf courses can't be developed," a frustrated Mangione said testily after Norman raised questions about development of chemically treated land.
"You're going to want to look at deeper [earth] core samples, Norman said, undeterred. "Bankers would be concerned that their investment was clean," he said.
Mangione rejected the concern, saying every required environmental review is being done.