Residents again object to builder's plans

Senior housing proposal for Maple Lawn criticized

Hearing continued to May 9

April 20, 2005|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Amid the dizzying recital of figures, assurances and complaints, one question resonated above all others at Monday's installment of the continued debate over Maple Lawn, Maryland: When is a deal binding?

And as with all issues involving this sweeping development in eastern Howard County, the developer and his critics had sharply different answers.

For the second time in four weeks, the Planning Board took testimony well into the evening Monday on proposed changes sought by the developer, Greenebaum and Rose Associates Inc. And for the second time, the hearing was continued, this time until May 9.

While the board will consider many factors when it ultimately votes to approve or oppose the changes, the issue of whether the design approved for Maple Lawn five years ago is unchangeable was raised repeatedly during Monday night's hearing.

The question is particularly important to the developer's request to add a 242-unit senior housing complex as a separate entity within the development.

The complex would increase the density of Maple Lawn to 2.7 units per acre from 2.2. Critics view that as a violation of the plan the county approved in late 2000.

The proposed changes are "arrogant and a flagrant breach of good faith in view of the developer's earlier testimony and what was approved five years ago," said John Adolphsen, who lives in Beaufort Park, not far from Maple Lawn. "It is an abuse of the zoning process and an affront to the Zoning Board."

Another resident, Hugh Squires, said, "We never expected to be revisiting these issues. ... Now we are back to square one and have no idea what to expect next.

"I ask that you hold this developer's feet to the fire on the integrity of his word."

Allowing Maple Lawn to expand, said Kathleen McNaney would irrevocably alter the characteristics of eastern Howard County.

"People came here to get away from the crowds, to get away from the traffic, to get away from the crime, to get away from the uncontrolled growth that we see in the counties around us," she said.

She ridiculed the notion that there would be minimal effect from the development.

Richard B. Talkin, a lawyer representing the developer, said any suggestion that his client is trying to change the rules belies his intent and the facts.

He said the density would be unaffected except for the senior housing complex, which, by federal law, must be constructed as a single development to avoid violating discrimination laws.

Senior housing is intended to respond to a county need, he said. Those villas would be on property previously approved for 32 detached single-family homes.

"For the most part," Talkin said, "there's no material difference in what we have in the ... proposal today in relationship to distance, size and look ... and what existed before."

The chairwoman of the Planning Board, Tammy J. CitaraManis, questioned Talkin on whether the developer was attempting to achieve now what he could not five years ago.

"The decision five years ago was that the old farm was going to be 32 single-family [units]," she said. Talkin responded that the developer recognizes "that it was a change, but it's a change made at the request and in response to what we perceived to be the needs in the county."

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