Councilman abandons rezoning proposal for 32-acre tract along U.S. 1

Merdon decision pleases neighborhood group leader

February 23, 2005|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A contested proposal to rezone part of a 32-acre tract on U.S. 1 in Elkridge near the community of Harwood Park will be withdrawn, according to the sponsor, Howard County Councilman Christopher J. Merdon.

The withdrawal was announced at last night's County Council public hearing.

"I was trying to make things work and get the place cleaned up, but I can't do it without ... the property owner," Merdon said. "We can't force him out. We can't force change on him."

The landowner, Jim Roberts, whose decades-old business is considered an eyesore by some, vowed yesterday to clean up and screen his land with either a fence or trees.

Roberts and his father, Edward Roberts, whose land was rezoned last year from industrial to a combination of commercial and residential uses, said they are satisfied with Merdon's decision.

"I'll have to just live with what I've got. I can keep on doing what I'm doing," said Jim Roberts. "I'm cleaning it up."

Merdon's zoning amendment, introduced at a County Council meeting Feb. 7, would have changed some residential and commercially zoned sections of the land closest to community residents' homes to office/commercial.

Betsy McMillion, president of the Harwood Park Neighborhood Improvement Association, said she was worried that if the land were developed under the proposed Planned Office Research designation, it could lead to large buildings close to homes that back to woods.

"I think that's wonderful. That's good news," McMillion said of Merdon's decision. McMillion added that the community still would like to see the Robertses' trucking/storage business on U.S. 1 cleaned up.

The county is engaged in an effort to promote redevelopment along U.S. 1, and 300 townhouses are planned for a tract just south of the Robertses' land.

McMillion said her group fought last year to defeat an attempt to encourage dense development on the Robertses' land as part of a general rezoning intended to spur upscale building along the highway. Instead, the council rezoned some of the land from industrial to commercial and residential uses.

The community was taken by surprise by Merdon's recent amendment, McMillion said.

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