Cedar Hill gets deadline for development

Co-owner says he can address concerns over 1,300-home project in northern county

March 18, 2007|By Kimberly Marselas | Kimberly Marselas,[ Special to The Sun]

A plan to build about 1,300 homes near the Baltimore City line is showing renewed signs of life, despite concerns raised about traffic, drainage and grading.

Last week Anne Arundel County planners handed Cherrywood Development a 25-page list of requirements to meet by April 28 to earn approval for the Cedar Hill project, a deadline that co-owner Stephen P. McAllister said he could meet.

"I went over it with my engineers yesterday, and we don't think there's anything that is insurmountable," he said.

The project, considered the linchpin of redevelopment in Brooklyn Park, has been in the works since at least 2003, when McAllister began buying abandoned industrial lots and a smattering of residential properties. The project, formerly known as Glen Abbey, includes 20 single-family homes, 933 townhouses, 370 apartments and condominiums, a community center and retail space.

Claudia O'Keeffe, an engineer with the Office of Planning and Zoning's development division, recommended a meeting with the developer about her concerns. But county land-use spokeswoman Pam Jordan said that a meeting with a builder and his engineers is routine to keep a project this size moving.

"There's still a lot of work that needs to be done, but it's not atypical," she said.

County Councilman Daryl Jones said his district needs the type of mixed development McAllister is offering. Townhouses could range from $250,000 for basic models to $450,000 for luxury units, while McAllister has pledged to make some of the condos available for rent.

"That will mean good opportunities for young families in our area who need affordable housing," Jones said. "It's a really good example of a joint process. The community is working with the developer, and the developer is working closely with the community."

Many nearby residents are eager to see the plan win approval. Linda Bardo, president of the Community of Curtis Bay Association, said most of her neighbors and owners of shops in the area welcome McAllister's investment and the business that thousands of new residents could bring to southern Baltimore and northern Anne Arundel County.

"We're trying to revitalize our community, but it's hard," she said. "Our commercial areas are struggling. We feel the new capacity will provide opportunities we wouldn't otherwise have."

McAllister is working to buy two adjacent pieces of land that would complete the development. The first, a 98-acre former industrial site, is in Anne Arundel County but owned by Baltimore. If McAllister can finalize the purchase, he hopes to integrate the land into his housing plans this summer. The additional land would accommodate one access road to the development, addressing an issue raised during the review process.

McAllister is also negotiating with the Baltimore comptroller's office to buy about 60 acres of a former landfill in the city. The comptroller's office is expected to advertise the possible sale this week in preparation for public hearings.

Company officials met with Curtis Bay and Brooklyn Park residents this winter to discuss mitigating environmental problems and turning the former landfill into a recreation site - complete with green space, hiking and biking trails, and a dog park. Bardo said residents are especially excited to see the defunct dump and its lingering trash disappear.

"The intention is to make this an example of how to do development inside the Beltway, to make it a place where people should want to live," said McAllister, a former executive for the environmental group Greenpeace.

He wants to bring the example to life sooner rather than later. If plans are approved this spring, McAllister said he would begin construction in about 18 months. The first batch of 300 homes would be available in time for the military and defense industry employees expected to relocate to the area as part of the military base realignment and closure process at Fort Meade.

Plans call for a limited retail operation to include a convenience store, a child-care center and possibly a dry cleaner or coffee shop. Another change from McAllister's original vision for the site is the cluster of 20 single-family houses running along the edge of the original Cedar Hill community.

"We've been working with citizens for years and years on this," McAllister said. "We made a lot of concessions. It takes a lot of work to blend a community like this with a ... neighborhood."

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