Revitalization of U.S. 1 receives another boost

Amendment OK'd to replace mobile home park with apartments

October 30, 2005|BY A SUN REPORTER

The hoped-for revitalization of U.S. 1 received another boost with the approval of a brief and, on first glance, irrelevant change to the voluminous zoning regulations.

The amendment, though, was the initial step in replacing a mobile home park with an apartment complex in North Laurel.

Although there are many stages left in the development process, the president of Beechcrest Mobile Home Estates, Mirza Baig, said the apartments would serve two county objectives: beefing up the historic U.S. 1 corridor, large parts of which have over the years fallen into economic disrepair, and providing moderately priced housing.

Technically, the Howard County Planning Board approved an amendment to permit apartments to be constructed on property of less than 6 acres and zoned for mobile homes when they are adjacent to other apartment developments. Regulations now require a minimum of 25 acres.

The change, which is subject to approval by the County Council, would affect only Baig's property.

It is the second time in seven weeks that the board has embraced changes designed to assist the U.S. 1 corridor. Early last month, the board approved rezoning 13.55 acres, on which a builder plans a mixed-use development of retail shops, apartments, townhouses and condominiums.

Baig hopes to replace the mobile home park with a development of up to 81 apartments. A minimum of 20 percent of the development would be reserved for moderately priced housing. There are spaces for 40 mobile homes at Beechcrest.

The Department of Planning and Zoning recommended approval of the change, noting in a report, "The existing mobile homes are old and are deteriorating" and the property has "little redevelopment potential."

Replacing the mobile home park would not begin for about two years, said Thomas M. Meachum, an attorney representing Baig.

He and Baig have met with the residents of Beechcrest to provide them sufficient time to plan, Meachum said, months before they are required to do so.

"We met with the people because it's the right thing to do," he said. "We wanted to give everybody as much notice as possible, so they could make their own decisions" on how and when to plan their move from the Beechcrest.

The Planning Board approved the zoning change, 3-0. Board members David Grabowski and H. Gregory Tornatore noted the 20 percent set-aside for moderate-income renters as an important factor in supporting the measure.

"Moderate-income housing is sorely needed," Tornatore said. "We need to do all we can."

The board also:

Declined to rezone about 3 acres in Columbia to community center transition from residential. The property is on Waterloo Road, about 1,100 feet southeast of Snowden River Parkway, and the developer, Murn Development LLC, sought the rezoning to construct townhouse-like offices. The measure failed when the Planning Board deadlocked, 2-2.

The rezoning was supported by the Department of Planning and Zoning because although much of the neighborhood property is zoned for residential, the area has changed significantly and is largely commercial.

Endorsed the proposed $99.975 million capital budget for the Howard County school system. The state requires review of the budget by the Planning Board.

The budget will be forwarded to the state's Interagency Committee for School Construction, which weighs funding requests from Maryland's 24 school districts. The county school board will formulate its final budget in late spring after state and county budgets are determined.

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