Board clears a path for plan

Zoning approved for mixed development on the site of a mobile home park

June 16, 2006|BY A SUN REPORTER

The first hurdle has been cleared to constructing a multimillion-dollar residential, office and retail compound along U.S. 1 in Jessup.

The project will include about 250,000 square feet of commercial use, about 1,000 housing units and a site for a hotel.

Construction of the first phase, which will include 50 homes, is expected to begin in about a year. Completion of the entire development will take between five and seven years.

The property will be at the site of the 244-space Aladdin Village Mobile Home Park on U.S. 1, about 500 feet from the Route 175 intersection.

About 170 families still live at the mobile home park, but they will be provided this summer with a state-required one-year notice to move. They have known of the pending move for some time.

The new project had been stymied by a referendum challenging scores of rezoning cases approved last year, but the Zoning Board removed that obstacle recently by unanimously accepting the developer's petition for special piecemeal zoning.

To do so, the board had to find that the Howard County Council either erred in not reclassifying the property two years ago during the comprehensive zoning process or that the character of the neighborhood has changed so significantly as to make its current zoning meaningless.

Eileen Powers, an attorney retained to advise the board on whether rezoning applications conform to the county's general plan, recommended against approval.

The board, made up of the council members, provided no explanation for its vote. It rezoned the property from residential, mobile home and business to CAC, or corridor activity center.

Real estate attorney Richard B. Talkin represented the developer, Aladdin Rock LLC.

He called a planner, Matthew A. D'Amico, who testified that the council mistakenly failed to rezone the property two years ago and that the area has changed greatly.

D'Amico said the county had rezoned several nearby properties to accommodate mixed-use development, decisions that reinforced the county's goal of economically revitalizing the U.S. 1 corridor.

"All of these are helping to realize the vision of the county's general plan," said D'Amico, a principal with Design Collective Inc., a Baltimore-based architectural and planning firm.

Without the zoning, he said after the meeting, the hopes of reinvigorating the corridor "will not be fully realized. That's the key."

The property as currently zoned, D'Amico testified, would scuttle the proposed project because housing is not permitted.

The property owners, Wayne Newsome and Mark Levy, partners of Aladdin Rock, have offered residents a package that includes relocation costs and purchasing of the mobile homes in some cases, and they have created a mobile home park about two miles away as a temporary solution for 60 residents.

"We're sensitive to their needs," Newsome said after the board meeting. "I don't know of any developer who has done this much to accommodate people."

Newsome said he hopes to bring a supermarket to the development, as well as a hotel. The project also will include 1,000 townhouses, condominiums and apartments, he said.

Plans for the site are still being developed, he said, because "we really want to put a lot of thought into the design."

Revamping the 13-mile-long corridor is a major priority for the county. The Zoning Board in March rezoned nearly 76 acres in Jessup for a mixed-use development. The developer, Blue Stream LLC, intends to combine that property with 20 additional adjacent acres to construct office buildings and residential units.

Several projects have been completed or are being planned along the corridor, including the $9 million conversion of the former Eastgate Shopping Center in Jessup into 60 commercial condominiums.

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