Larger Turf Valley OK'd

Planning Board ruling comes after months of hearings

appeal considered

Expansion plan wins board's approval

March 10, 2006|BY A SUN REPORTER

In an ironic conclusion to months of contentious debate, the two chief protagonists were not around to hear the verdict as the Planning Board unanimously approved a plan to expand the luxury development of Turf Valley in western Ellicott City.

The outcome was widely anticipated after opponents struggled to present relevant evidence of why the expansion should be stopped during hearings that stretched over six months.

The board members Tuesday night refrained from responding to those who demeaned their integrity and challenged their competence during the hearings. Instead, they calmly discussed the issues, examined exhibits and reviewed testimony for almost three hours before voting.

Absent at the vote were Louis Mangione, vice president of Mangione Family Enterprises, the owner and developer of Turf Valley, and Frank Martin, who led the fight against the expansion. Both left early because Martin was ill and Mangione had family obligations.

"It seems to be going well," Mangione said later. "Obviously, I'm happy to be approved."

Martin, who lives near Turf Valley and was co-chairman of a coalition in opposition to the expansion, said: "Am I surprised at the decision? I am appalled at the decision."

He said opponents would meet to decide their next move. Martin said previously that an appeal would be filed if the Planning Board approved the expansion. But he said a final decision has not been made.

The costs of appealing to the Board of Appeals may be one factor. Martin said that would cost an estimated $5,000 "just for the transcripts -- not including legal counsel or any paperwork that might be required."

The board approved a fourth comprehensive sketch plan that would:

Expand the development by 119.7 acres. The planned community now has 689 acres.

Add 239 housing units, 174 of which would be in the residential section and 65 restricted to the multiuse area. The additional units would not increase the overall density of the development. Turf Valley is zoned for 1,379 units.

Permanently fix the location of nine golf course holes. Those would provide buffers for the homes and free-up land in the multi-use areas for development.

Improve traffic flow with the realignment of Resort Road, a major street in the development.

Those changes, said board member Linda A. Dombrowski, are consistent with the county's general plan and mirror the "objectives and vision" of planned golf course communities.

Turf Valley is the only development in the county with that zoning.

The changes "would improve the overall development," said board member H. Gregory Tornatore.

Martin, in an interview, reiterated his claim that expanding Turf Valley would violate the county's general plan, which, he said, caps the number of housing units at 1,390 and acreage for residential use at 780 acres.

The resort and planned community, he said, will have 840 acres and be permitted to construct 1,618 housing units with the approved changes.

"Clearly this comprehensive sketch plan is requesting units in excess" of what is allowed, he said. Martin accused Marsha S. McLaughlin, director of the Department of Planning and Zoning, of displaying a "dismissive attitude" toward the board.

Tammy J. Citara-Manis, chairwoman of the board, said the general plan is "intended to be a guideline," and said "nothing would ever get done" if every provision had to be complied with.

"They [Mangione] are doing what the PGCC was intended to do," said board member David Grabowski.

The board did modify Mangione's petition to require additional analysis of projected traffic growth.

That study could require planned road improvements by Mangione to be constructed sooner.

Mangione said he "has no problem with that. ... I volunteered months ago to do them earlier."

He declined to speculate on what the opponents will do next.

"I have not been able to predict what they will do," he said. "They say they want a better place, and I agree with them. But I don't know how they want to get there."

He said the company will continue finalizing its plans, but he cautioned that the project will not be completed soon. "I have years of work to do on Turf Valley," Mangione said.

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