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Proposed residential development in North Laurel gets mixed reviews

While the housing market is suffering from the economic collapse, developers are planning for its recovery, and one area they are focusing on is North Laurel.

Several residential developments are in the works for parcels of land scattered throughout the southeast corner of Howard County.

The latest is a 37-unit residential subdivision being proposed on 10 acres of land, referred to as the Marcellino property, just south of High Ridge Road and east of the dirt-covered River Hill Road. About 50 people attended a presubmission community meeting Wednesday, Oct. 3 to listen to the developer, Joseph Rutter of Ellicott City-based Land Design and Development Inc., talk about the project.

The proposal is for a subdivision with 22 single-family detached homes and 15 townhouses. The development would be built after a two-lane public road is constructed, leading down to the 10-acre parcel, which is currently only accessible from Riverhill Road, a private dirt road.

As to when construction would begin on the 37 homes, Rutter said: "The quickest is probably maybe the fall of 2014 or the spring of 2015."

The public road is being built in conjunction with another project, the 137-home Deer Springs development that is planned to be built on about 38 acres of land, referred to as the Kraeski property, off High Ridge Road, some on the north side and some on south side near the Marcellino property.

The earliest Rutter said he expects work to begin on the Deer Spring project, which is also being developed by his company, is about a year from now.

About half of the people at the meeting raised concerns about the two projects and their impact on the area's roads, schools and other infrastructure.

The other half were mostly silent, taking in the information. Afterward, many of the people who were silent during the meeting said they had no opposition to the development, as people have the right to do what they want with their property, and that change happens.

Bill Stoner, who lives on Old Scaggsville Road, behind the Kraeski property, took a position in between the two sides.

"I'm not against change," he said. "I don't mind change. I don't mind a few homes going up behind my house where my beautiful woods has stood for the 68 years that I've been able to look at it. But to build and bring in that number of houses … without proper road improvements and additional schools for the number of kids that are going to be in those homes, it's ludicrous."

Kathy Miesse, a member of the Kraeski family, said she didn't want to have to sell her grandparents' farm, which the family has owned since 1917.

"I would love to keep it in the family, but I don't have the funds to keep it, the means to keep it," she said.

Miesse, who lives in Texas, said the family did keep six acres of the property, on which the family home sits.

On the development and the community concerns, Miesse said: "Life goes on and progress goes on. I'm sure there was community animosity going on back when the other subdivisions were built."

Others meanwhile, weren't so understanding.

Bibi Perrotte-Foston, president of the North Laurel Civic Association, said all the development being planned for the area is just too much.

"The new development would outnumber us (residents already) there," she said.

Perrotte-Foston said she bought her North Laurel home because the area "was quaint," but that's no longer the case.

"I don't like the big trucks coming in there," she said.

North Laurel resident Stu Kohn also is frustrated with the development. But he's even more frustrated with the lack of checks and balances involved in the development process.

When Rutter told Kohn he doesn't even live very close to this site so he won't be impacted, Kohn said: "We're all impacted. It's infrastructure. It's not just roads and schools. ... What needs to be done is expanded APFO (adequate public facilities ordinance)."

It is through the adequate public facilities process that the county will determine whether new roads or schools need to be built as a part of this development. APFO also puts limits on how many units can be built in each area of the county every year, but the unused allocations roll over from year to year.

Through his own research, Kohn determined that there are more than 600 units either currently being built or proposed to be built in the North Laurel area.

Kohn said developers are more worried about making money than they are about the impact on the community.

"It's cents versus sense," he said. "They developer holds all the keys to the kingdom."

Throughout the meeting, Rutter pushed back against the residents' concerns.

"The way the law works … is based upon whether the county says its adequate, not whether your or I think it is," he said, after hearing repeated comments about the roads not being able to handle the additional traffic. "We're going to do whatever the studies and the county says we have to do."

As the residents continued to direct criticism at Rutter, Kohn interjected: "He's doing his job, whether you like it or not, he's doing his job. What we don't like is the county (process)."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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