Panel finishes its study

U.S. 40

Committee doesn't consider Turf Valley's plans in findings

`Didn't believe that was integral'

Report to help County Council determine rezoning decisions

Howard County

September 03, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County's 20-member U.S. 40 Enhancement Study group finished its work late yesterday after a final discussion, but it did not revisit what effect plans for a huge Turf Valley development just outside the study's boundaries could have on its report.

The issue reflects two competing tensions - the need to spruce up and urbanize older commercial strips to prevent blight, and the anxiety of residents about the effects of large new developments like Turf Valley.

The task force met 13 times, trying to craft a guide for the future of the seven-mile commercial and residential corridor from Patapsco Valley State Park on the east to Marriottsville Road on the west. Its report is intended to help the County Council decide rezoning decisions this fall.

Suggestions have included streetscape improvements, incentives for business owners, and zoning changes to help create more urbanized mixed-use centers around three existing commercial hubs - the two largest at Normandy Shopping Center and Chatham Mall, and a smaller center on Frederick Road and St. John's Lane.

Yesterday, Stephen M. Johns, a county planner who has led the discussion, said his department plans to recommend rezoning of several small parcels for senior housing or offices rather than the retail business zoning that landowners on U.S. 40 typically want.

Those sites include the south side of the highway from Centennial Lane to Pine Orchard Lane, the nearby Coventry Court area behind Clark's Hardware, and near the U.S. 40 intersection with U.S. 29 near St. John's Plaza, south of Upton Road.

Some ideas are similar to those proposed for U.S. 1, the county's oldest commercial corridor, including redevelopment of some small spots to create more places for people to walk and gather, and housing mixed with or built above offices and stores.

One such location is on the north side of the highway from Boone's Lane to Pebble Beach Drive and would be "a good transition" to nearby residential areas, said Angela Beltram, a former County Council member who sits on the committee. Others were skeptical of having apartments over stores or offices.

"This isn't Manhattan. Some of these concepts are great, but they may be more appropriate for Rockville or Alexandria," said member Mark Weinman.

The Turf Valley issue didn't come up last night, but feelings remain divided on its relevance to the study.

"I don't feel Turf Valley had anything to do with this. I think the task force did a great job," said committee member Louis Mangione, vice president for development at Mangione Family Enterprises, Turf Valley's owner.

Johns, the county planner, said a study the committee considered included possible economic effects of Mangione's plans to build more than 1,600 homes and a large office/retail project on the corridor's western tip.

But the county's planning director, Marsha McLaughlin, said the group's members "just didn't believe that was integral" to their task. A separate County Council committee is studying Mangione's plans.

Frank Martin, a Turf Valley resident who has asked for more attention to be paid to Turf Valley, said the project should have been central to the committee's work because it was planned in the 1980s, before the county adopted growth controls.

The 809-acre golf course property has a hotel and 170 homes. The Mangione family wants to add the 1,600 homes plus a half-million square feet of commercial and retail space. The family needs council approval to boost the density over what was approved in 1986.

Martin said the validity of the task force's findings is "pretty slim because they're ignoring the largest virgin piece of land on U.S. 40."

The County Council is scheduled to hear about the committee's work Sept. 13, Johns said, and a planning board presentation is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 29.

The council is expected to consider a new round of land rezoning that will include parcels on U.S. 40 in December or January.

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