A plan to cluster development in one corner of historic Doughoregan Manor while preserving the rest of the once-vast Colonial estate received final, unanimous approval from the Howard County Council late Thursday.
The complex plan would provide more than $19 million over two decades in agricultural preservation money to Camilla and Philip D. Carroll, descendants of Charles Carroll of Carrolton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. They have said they intend to use the money to restore the remainder of the 892-acre estate and keep it in the family.
"This is the preservation of a National Historic Landmark," said Joseph Rutter, a former planning director in Howard and Anne Arundel counties who worked for the Carrolls as a private consultant.
The written legal agreement approved Thursday lays out the specific promises and safeguards in the plan and was the final piece in a four-part county government approval process.
Under the plan, 325 homes can be built on 221 acres in the northeastern corner of the estate, near Frederick Road and west of Centennial Lane. The Carrolls would give 36 acres to Howard County to more than double the size of Kiwanis-Wallas Park on Frederick Road. The rest of the land will be preserved.
To accomplish all that, the County Council approved extending water and sewer utilities onto the development portion of the property, and also approved adding 500 acres of farmland to the county's Agricultural Preservation program, under which the Carrolls will be paid over the next two decades.
The county zoning board, made up of the five County Council members, approved rezoning last week for the development, a move that could prompt a court challenge from a group of nearby residents who claim the new homes would produce more traffic and school crowding. They feel the county has bent over backward to benefit the famously private Carrolls while sacrificing other area residents' interests. The Carrolls have never appeared at any of the many meetings and hearings on the estate's future over the years, and have made clear their intent to keep the public out of the nearly 300-year-old estate and mansion.
"It is not a perfect solution, but it is a comprehensive solution," said Council Chairwoman Courtney Watson, a Democrat whose district includes the estate.
Under the rural zoning in place until recently, the Carrolls could have developed up to about 400 homes on large lots across the entire estate, a prospect they and historic preservationists felt would irreparably hurt a national treasure.
The Ellicott City estate, unseen and unknown to most county residents, lies between Frederick Road and Route 108 but is accessible only via private roads. It once covered more than 10,000 acres, and is the only home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence still in family hands.