Market proposal approved

Turf Valley town center plan caps other stores

November 06, 2008|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Larry.carson@baltsun.com

A plan for a larger supermarket at Turf Valley's proposed town center was unanimously approved by the County Council on Monday night, despite objections from some residents.

The five members approved one change to the bill that is intended to prevent big-box retailers from coming to the planned office/retail center near the western edge of the redeveloping 809-acre hotel/golf resort.

The amendment, introduced by Fulton Republican Greg Fox, caps the size of any other store in the retail center at 20,000 square feet. The bill allows a 55,000-square-foot supermarket instead of the 18,000-square-foot store approved in 1993.

"That product imagined back then really doesn't exist anymore," said west Columbia Democrat Mary Kay Sigaty, speaking of the changes in the retail grocery store business that now require larger buildings.

The planned Turf Valley center "is reminiscent of village centers in Columbia" where people can meet their neighbors. Turf Valley is between U.S. 40 and Interstate 70 in western Ellicott City.

Sigaty's district is home to Wilde Lake Village Center, where a 23,000-square-foot Giant supermarket, the first in Columbia, closed two years ago, leaving a vacant building.

Council chairwoman Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat, said it would be hard for the council not to approve the size change because the body earlier approved a similar change in Elkridge.

"This issue has really divided the community," she said, noting that council members have had many messages from people on both sides of the issue. But it is important for people to understand what the change is not, she said.

"This is not a zoning change," Watson said. "It is not an increase in density or in commercial space."

Watson added that owners of other shopping centers along U.S. 40 she spoke to did not object to a new supermarket farther west.

Fox said he also has received assurances from the developer, Greenberg Gibbons Commercial of Annapolis, that the firm would work with residents on design issues and would plant trees to replace some lost to construction. He said the Mangione family also told him that a potential school site has been identified among the homes planned there.

Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa, Democrats who represents parts of Columbia, Jessup and North Laurel, also approved of the larger store.

"I wanted to ensure this is a viable community amenity," Ball said.

Terrasa said she couldn't imagine what else could fit in the center if the larger grocery were not approved.

"I didn't see what the viable option was there," she said.

Still Marc Norman, a Turf Valley resident and a persistent critic of the Mangione family's plans to build more than 1,300 homes and offices and stores on their land, wasn't satisfied.

"This was a rush to judgment," he said after the meeting.

Norman had pressed for a one-month delay in the vote. He said the council should use the change in plans as an opportunity for a broad review of the project's impact on congestion in the area.

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