Less density sought in Aberdeen annex

Panel seeks changes from developer

June 22, 2008|By Madison Park | Madison Park,Sun Reporter

The Aberdeen planning commission has recommended single-family dwellings for a development that had originally sought to build more than 1,600 homes and condominiums.

Several members of the city's Planning and Zoning commission said the petition to build the dwellings on 497 acres, which would be annexed by Aberdeen, was too dense.

Christopher Michaels, management director of the project called Glengarry, said last week it was unclear what the property owners would pursue next.

"I don't mean to sound ambiguous," he said. "We're in the process of reviewing with different engineers. ... There's an awful lot of moving parts - working in conjunction with the city, state and citizens, hopefully to come to a plan that works for everyone."

This is the second time the annexation project for the area came before City Hall. In 2006, the first annexation proposal, called the Wetlands, was criticized by residents who said it was approved by City Council members with little information provided to the community. This action led to a moratorium on all Aberdeen annexation petitions. The moratorium was lifted in February.

This year, the project returned to City Hall with a modified plan and a new name - Glengarry. The developers held several public meetings to discuss the project with residents and distributed surveys seeking community suggestions.

Earlier this month, Jackie Seneschal, who represented the development, told the city's Planning and Zoning Commission the project could increase the city's tax base by $5 million.

It would bring 1,629 units in an area northwest of the city, according to the Glengarry Annexation Report submitted to the city in May. A golf course and residential homes are currently on the parcel.

The project was promoted as high-income housing to attract workers expected to come to nearby Aberdeen Proving Ground as a result of the military base realignment and closure plan, known as BRAC.

The report cites numbers from a BRAC study, which projected housing shortfalls in the county by 2012.

"Glengarry is anticipated to capture a portion of the BRAC-induced population increase and help the City of Aberdeen with its housing demand to maintain its citizens' quality of life," according to the report.

The report calls for 684 village homes, 55 estate homes, 526 three- and four-story brownstone homes, 198 carriage homes, 166 condominiums and 12.4 acres of commercial use sites.

The developers asked for R1 zoning, which is low density, single-family housing, and a majority of the acres to be designated the Integrated Business District zoning, which allows a mix of commercial and low- to high-density residential units.

"We are requesting IBD not because of the density, but because it allows single-family housing and allows a mix of commercial and residential," Seneschal said.

Many commission members said they could not support the plan because it would allow higher density housing and strain city resources. Several members referred to a referendum regarding the Wetlands annexation project two years ago.

When the Wetlands project was unanimously approved by the City Council in 2006, residents who opposed the plan built a community coalition, called Aberdeen Communities Together (ACT) to quash the effort. Many had opposed the annexation, saying it would burden city resources, such as its water supply and infrastructure.

The community members launched a door-to-door effort to overturn the City Council's approval of the plan. In a voter referendum, residents voted by a 2-to-1 margin to reject the Wetlands annexation.

The Wetlands had spawned a major political issue, and subsequently in the November 2007 election, two Aberdeen officials who supported the annexation were voted out of office.

"This community is not ready for annexation," said Richard Craig, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. "We just are not ready. The populace of Aberdeen has shown that."

The commission voted to recommend the annexation as a less dense, R1 zoning.

"Planning and Zoning is getting the message from the citizens," said Chuck Doty, founding member of Aberdeen Communities Together, which has been skeptical about the Glengarry project.

Doty said that had the developers left the original Wetlands project at R1 zoning, "that thing would've snuck through."

The annexation petition requires City Council approval.

"The petition remains its original integrity," said Curtis Coon, an attorney for the development team. "The recommendations are certainly given weight and considered. The commission's recommendation does not have the impact of amending the petition."


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