Turf Valley scores wins at hearing

Opponents try to widen review, are shut down

August 05, 2005|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

It was one part poker and one part Perry Mason. And after more than 3 1/2 hours of skirmishing so far, the developer of Turf Valley appears well ahead in chips.

The high-stakes game enters its second round next month, however, when those opposing expansion of the planned community in western Howard County return to the Planning Board to lay out their case - and face cross-examination by the developer's attorney.

The opponents were beaten back several times Wednesday night as they sought to shift the debate beyond the scope of the latest proposal and to focus on Turf Valley's broader impact on the nearby community and county.

In the most recent skirmish, they were victims of three forces: Richard B. Talkin, a savvy attorney representing the developer who conceded no ground; the county's regulations, which restricted how far either side could venture at the hearing; and the chairwoman of the Planning Board, Tammy J. CitaraManis, who refused to let the board be forced into widening the hearing.

Development's scope

"Address the criteria that we must use," she instructed both sides at the beginning of Wednesday night's hearing. "The board will exclude testimony not pertinent to the criteria."

The application by the owner and developer of Turf Valley, Mangione Family Enterprises, is seeking approval of its fourth comprehensive sketch plan, which would:

Expand the project to about 809 acres by adding almost 120 acres.

Phase in an additional 267 housing units between 2008 and 2015. Turf Valley is zoned for 1,351 units. The increase would retain the overall density to two units per acre.

Relocate permanently several golf holes to the residential areas of the development to act as buffers for residents and to open up land in the multiuse district for future development.

Realign road design for better traffic flow.

The Department of Planning and Zoning said the application is "technically complete" and recommended approval.

Louis Mangione, vice president of the developing company and project manager for Turf Valley, said that the application meets all county regulations and is consistent with the county's general plan, the 10-year blueprint for development.

Some support

Some Turf Valley residents urged approval of the application, saying that Mangione has been working with them and indicated a willingness to make further changes to relieve concerns over the number of condominium buildings.

"The developer has gone above and beyond what is required by the regulations," said resident Jack Conlon.

On the surface, Mangione has submitted a fairly routine application.

But at this week's hearing, Frank Martin, co-chairman of a coalition opposing the Turf Valley expansion, and several other opponents took turns during their cross-examinations of Mangione in trying to raise issues that have long concerned them - but which were not the subject of Wednesday's hearing.

Tough issues

Those included an attempt to introduce an early sketch of plans for Turf Valley that was shown to potential homebuyers and that some residents have charged was misleading; to raise environmental concerns; to raise concerns of crowded schools; and to question what steps are planned to make residents "safe" from traffic.

Each time, Talkin, an attorney retained by many developers, objected immediately, arguing that the line of questioning should be excluded because it was outside the parameters of the hearing. And each time he won.

Even Martin's opening statement was cut short because it appeared to be a testimonial to the accomplishments and concerns of the coalition and failed, as required, to preview the opposition's case against Mangione's application.

In a sense, though, Martin's opening statement was a reflection of the opposition's case because opponents are trying to expand the Planning Board's review of the case.

"Development should be done with a wider view," Martin said.

The coalition's other co-chairman, Marc Norman, said last week that the Planning Board could "require anything they want" from Mangione, and that his group expected the board to examine "the inter-relations so we can assess the roads impact, schools, environment and fiscal impact."

Martin did score one victory - over Talkin's objections - when he was granted a delay in cross-examining a traffic expert for the developer until the latest traffic analysis can be reviewed.

CitaraManis, on the advice of legal counsel, said the board was bound by the county's regulations, which restrict testimony to issues specific to the developer's application.

Marsha S. McLaughlin, director of the Department of Planning and Zoning, sought to alleviate the opposition's concerns by noting that a comprehensive sketch plan is broad in nature - "it's the big picture" - and that the developer will be required to seek approval for specific plans later, at which time the county and public can assess their impact.

The hearing will resume Sept. 15.

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