By Gwendolyn Glenn
3:57 PM EST, January 29, 2013
Laurel City Council members approved the zoning and conceptual designs for a mixed-use development planned for 62 acres of land near Contee and Van Dusen roads at Monday night's meeting.
The land in question was annexed by city officials in July. The developers of the project, Virginia-based Strittmatter Land, requested a mixed use transit zoning (MXT) designation for the site, which sits near Interstate-95. The Planning Commission had approved the zoning two weeks ago.
Strittmatter's plans for the site, called Westside, would include a maximum of 80 townhouses, no more than 500 apartment units in a gated complex and up to 200,000 square feet of retail space. A 150-room hotel is also planned for the development.
"We don't know what type of hotel it will be or what amenities it will have, but it will look over the new ramp at I-95 and Contee Road that's being built now," said Karl Brendle, the city's Business and Community Planning director.
Council President Fred Smalls said he is pleased with what Strittmatter has come up with thus far for the annexed property.
"That area needed to be developed and I like that the growth will be controlled growth," Smalls said referring to the limits the council placed on the number of residential units and retail space that can be developed on the site. "The fact that they are including a hotel is a big plus. I want to share their plans with the (Laurel Regional) Hospital board since this will be in their backyard," added Smalls, who chairs the hospital board.
Smalls said the conceptual plans, which could change significantly by the time the final designs are presented to the council and planning commission for approval, have resolved any concerns council members had about the project.
The main point of contention involved access points to the proposed development. The property consists of two parcels of land along Contee Road near Van Dusen Road and I-95. Some city officials were concerned that the developer's proposed entrances and exits to the property would have an adverse effect on traffic and nearby residences. The issue was resolved by having the conceptual plans changed to allow for only one entrance and exit near the planned Kenilworth Extension.
"Westside Boulevard off of Van Dusen is where the access to the development will be, just past the hospital near Van Dusen and Virginia Manor (roads)" Brendle said.
Smalls added, "They took care of our concerns and we're satisfied with what we see in the conceptual plans."
Prior to the city's annexation of the land where the development is to be constructed, county officials had approved an MXT zoning for the property. Brendle said because of that, county officials will have to sign off on the zoning the council approved last night.
"It has to do with the five-year clause," Brendle said. "If more than 50 percent of an area is annexed within the first five years after the MXT zoning was approved by the county, the county council will have to reapprove the zoning."