Plan caught in zoning web

Developer threatens to toss Gateway housing proposal

February 02, 2007|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,sun reporter

One of the two developers of a $500 million housing and retail development near Fort Meade has threatened to scrap that plan and erect an industrial warehouse project on part of the site, unless the county immediately moves to change the property's zoning.

Parkland Properties of Millersville is ready to submit plans to Anne Arundel County for 500,000 square feet of warehouse "flex-space" on almost 50 acres in the heart of a 300-acre parcel south of the Oak Hill Youth Center, one of Parkland's partners, Jay Baldwin, said yesterday.

If carried out, the project - which could include traditional warehouses or high-end office space - would kill the original plans for a pedestrian-friendly town center at the heart of Arundel Gateway, a proposed 1,600-home development complete with upscale restaurants along Route 198. Such a move could force the other developer, John C. Stamato of Ribera Development, to overhaul the residential portion of the project and build more retail space and potentially a hotel.

The developers had planned to market Arundel Gateway to meet the housing needs of an influx of defense workers coming to Fort Meade over the next four years.

The developers had been lobbying the county for months to enact legislation that would allow for residential and commercial building on the industrially zoned land. But at least twice, County Council members have delayed introducing the zoning "overlay" legislation, and this week the developers said the county administration has pulled its support for it.

Stamato said yesterday that Anne Arundel officials want to approve the zoning change as part of the once-in-a-decade review of the county's growth blueprint, known as the General Development Plan.

A revision of the development plan could take 18 months. From that point, gaining project approvals may take another three years.

"I don't know if we can sit on this property for five years and make this work," the Annapolis developer said.

Stamato said that Parkland's decision to build flex space is forcing him back to the drawing board. He raised the possibility of reducing the number of homes by more than half - but only if the county agrees to the zoning overlay. The 300 acres are zoned for industrial use.

"We have good uses like a hotel and others that we can take advantage of as we wait for the legislation to be passed," Stamato said.

Stamato said if County Executive John R. Leopold and the County Council can agree on a growth plan for the communities around Fort Meade in the next few months, he can modify his portion of "our plans to take advantage of what we hope we want it to be."

Stamato stressed that Leopold supports the current project. However, Assistant Planning and Zoning Officer Chris Soldano yesterday would only recite a statement on behalf of the Leopold administration: "County Executive Leopold has begun the review of the General Development Plan, and a major part of that revision is the designation of mixed-use projects that would enhance economic development revenue potential in smart-growth, transit-orient areas."

Soldano declined to comment further.

Leopold said during the fall campaign that the development plan would be crucial in establishing a capital-projects schedule that will direct the flow of growth.

Baldwin said that Parkland paid "millions of dollars" for the nearly 50 acres almost 20 years ago and it can no longer afford to sit on the land as the region prepares for the massive military expansion. The 300 acres lay within a mile of the Army post with close access to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 198.

"We are full speed ahead with our original plans," said Baldwin, president of Reliable Contracting Co. Inc., which has formed Parkland with Osprey Property Co. "God knows we need the housing."

Stamato said the county gave him assurances that if he waits, Anne Arundel officials would help in negotiating with the National Park Service to bring sewer lines across the federally controlled Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Civic leaders have said that Arundel Gateway could help put the upgrading of Route 198, along with water and sewer capacity, on the fast track, and build momentum to redevelop Oak Hill, a District of Columbia-controlled juvenile detention facility on nearly 900 acres, into parkland and a commercial park.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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