Howard panel supports Turf Valley expansion

Developer gets backing on 3 matters

4th deferred

December 10, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The proposed expansion of Turf Valley, the exclusive residential, golf course and resort development in western Howard County, won important backing yesterday from the county Planning Board.

In a series of votes, the board backed the developer, Mangione Family Enterprises, on three critical matters. It deferred action on a fourth.

The board's recommendations ultimately will be forwarded to the County Council, which will have the final word on the scope of Turf Valley's expansion. Yesterday's votes were tentative and are subject to change, though opponents of the expansion acknowledged that seems unlikely.

"To see what happened in there today ... is a disgrace, an absolute disgrace," said Marc Norman, a Turf Valley resident and a leading critic of the expansion.

He accused Marsha L. McLaughlin, director of the Department of Planning and Zoning, of "leading the board the same way a prosecutor would lead a grand jury" to get the necessary votes.

McLaughlin said her responsibilities include "providing guidance in terms of what the legal obligations are under the law." Although the board is made up of laymen, she said, the members are "strong-minded. ... This is not a group that gets led around by the nose. They clearly were not ready to decide about density, and didn't."

The board supported changing zoning limitations for grocery stores in planned golf course communities to 65,000 square feet from 18,000 square feet. Louis Mangione, vice president of development for Mangione Family Enterprises, has said repeatedly that supermarkets will not invest in a new store without sufficient size.

While technically leaving height restrictions unchanged at 40 feet, the board backed language that would permit condominiums to be built as high as 55 feet, as desired by the developer, if it was determined there would be no adverse affect.

The board kept unchanged the restriction of 24 condo units per building but approved up to 28 units, as Mangione would like, if the increase was determined not detrimental.

The board deferred action on the developer's request for higher density to build 128 units not now permitted after the closing of one of three golf courses at Turf Valley.

Under existing zoning, the Mangiones are permitted to build 1,379 units and add about 1 million square feet in commercial space, although the developer's current plans would use only 442,000 square feet.

Many residents in and near Turf Valley have opposed the expansion. They have been primarily concerned about the development's impact on already crowded schools and clogged roads.

More than 200 residents expressed objections last month at a Planning Board hearing.

"Was that testimony fresh in anyone's minds?" Norman said. "I tend to believe it wasn't."

It was a bad day all around for Norman.

Board Chairman Gary L. Kaufman ordered Norman to stop videotaping yesterday's meeting, saying it was an unnecessary distraction.

After Norman protested, Kaufman replied: "I am the chairman, and you're going to turn that off or you're going to leave the room."

Norman returned to the back of the room, but it was unclear whether he stopped taping the proceedings.

The board's meetings have been taped by the opponents for people unable to attend the sessions and to analyze them for possible errors.

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