Cypress Springs gets board's OK

Plan for subdivision near U.S. 1 praised by panel for safeguarding environment

April 30, 2006|BY A SUN REPORTER

The revitalization of the U.S. 1 corridor will get another boost with the construction of a 44-unit subdivision in Elkridge.

Reinvigorating the economic foundation of the 13-mile strip in Howard County is a high priority of politicians and business leaders.

That effort will take years to complete, but several projects are under way or planned. The latest is Cypress Springs, which will include building 43 single-family detached houses and renovating the historic Old Grace Church rectory.

The Planning Board unanimously approved plans for the development after commending the developer for safeguarding the environment, including heavily wooded areas on the property.

The subdivision will be on the south side of Lawyers Hill Road, east of Summer Home Terrace and border Washington Boulevard (U.S. 1) on the north.

The property encompasses 33 acres, but the developer, Michael Pfau, president of Trinity Homes Inc., will use only one-third of the land for the houses. About 60 percent of the land will be reserved for open space, well beyond what is required by Howard County regulations.

The design for the project "respects the environment ... with minimal disturbances as possible," said Robert H. Vogel, president of the engineering firm of the same name.

"It looks to me like it's a well-planned development and will serve the needs of the community," said Planning Board member H. Gregory Tornatore. "They've done a good job of protecting the environment."

Board member David Grabowski praised the company for "saving as much of the forest area as possible."

And Linda A. Dombrowski, another board member, said the developer demonstrated "considered care" for the environment. "It's a good project."

The Department of Planning and Zoning said the proposal meets all regulations and recommended approval of the developer's preliminary plan. The board approved the plan Thursday night on a 5-0 vote.

The rectory, Pfau said, has been neglected for 30 years and has fallen into disrepair. He said his firm would work with county and historic officials on plans to renovate the structure.

There are three other old buildings on the property, but they will be removed. The property includes two large forested areas. One is 16 acres of oak and poplar; the other, encompassing almost 4 acres, is dominated by black locusts.

The board also rejected rezoning almost 13.5 acres in western Howard County for a senior housing development.

In an attempt to salvage the project, the developer, Donald R. Reuwer Jr., made last-minute changes last month by reducing the number of housing units to 50 from 63 and eliminating a condominium component. The Planning Board at the time deferred its decision to enable staff to analyze the changes.

The Department of Planning and Zoning said Thursday that while the changes were "worthy improvements," it urged denial, saying that the overall project would still harm the character of the so-called rural west, which the property boarders.

The property fronts Old Frederick Road (Route 99), just west of Marriottsville Road, and is close to Alpha Ridge Park.

The board rejected rezoning the property for senior housing on a 4-0 vote. Chairwoman Tammy J. CitaraManis abstained because she was unable to attend the hearing last month on the application.

In an unusual twist, though, the board embraced Reuwer's backup plan by recommending that the same property be rezoned for single-family development.

If approved by the Zoning Board, which is made up of the five County Council members, the property would be freed from a referendum challenging rezoning decisions last year in what is commonly referred to as Comp Lite. The referendum will be on the ballot in the November general election.

There are no plans yet, but the rezoning would permit about 20 housing units on the property.

The Planning Board said that the Zoning Board erred in 2004 by not rezoning the property even though it is within the public water and sewerage boundaries. The county is attempting to preserve agricultural land, in part, by not extending water and sewerage to the rural west.

Board member Gary Rosenbaum said the Zoning Board was confused over the boundaries and erred by deferring action. "They tried to correct it in Comp Lite," he said.

Marsha S. McLaughlin, director of Planning and Zoning, urged the board: "What do you think makes the most sense here? ... You're trying to make good land-use policies."

The board recommended the rezoning on a 4-1 vote, with Tornatore dissenting.

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