Columbia Village of River Hill

Over 200 homes are planned for 60 acres adjacent to the headquarters of W.R. Grace in Columbia's village of River Hill. (Rendering courtesy of GF Columbia / December 17, 2013)

A Connecticut-based developer plans to turn 60 acres of unoccupied land in west Columbia into 100 single-family homes and 106 townhouses by 2020.

The development, called Simpson Oaks, will be built adjacent to the headquarters of W.R. Grace, a technology company that sells chemicals and specialty building materials, off of Grace Drive near the intersection of Route 32 and Cedar Lane in Columbia's village of River Hill.

W.R. Grace, which owns the property, has a contract to sell the land to GF Columbia LLC, a subsidiary of Greenfield Partners located in Norwalk, CT. The purchase price of the property has not been released.

The property is currently zoned for commercial use, but the developer is in the process of applying to the county's Department of Planning and Zoning to get it changed, according to a Patti Caplan, a spokeswoman for GF Columbia.

"The developers looked at commercial uses for the property but after considering the options decided the best use would be residential because it could serve as a transition between the Grace campus in the adjoining neighborhoods," said Caplan.

Caplan said GF Columbia submitted a preliminary plan to DPZ on Dec. 5, and hopes to be completed with the zoning change in June of 2014.

If the zoning change is granted in 2014, Caplan said the developer estimates the project would be completed in 2020.

GF Columbia held a community meeting in November for residents to comment and learn about the plans.

Caplan said 40 people attended and the plans were generally well-received.

"I think the community was very relieved to learn that GF Columbia was going to pursue rezoning," Caplan said.

Susan Smith, village manager of River Hill, said the zoning change "allayed many residents concerns."

However, Smith said that doesn't mean the community doesn't have concerns. She said the village is putting together a committee to track the development.

Caplan said there was "good input" at the meeting and that most of the concerns were related to traffic, stormwater runoff and the two entrances to the development. In response to the entrance concern, the developer consolidated the two entrances to one, and it now will be located on Grace Drive instead of Quiet Night Ride, according to Caplan.

Caplan said the developer wants to "let the community know as things move forward," and has set up a website for the development at http:://www.simpsonoaks.com.

If the zoning is approved, the properties will be put up for sale to builders, according to Caplan. The quarter-acre lots for single-family homes will likely be sold to multiple builders, but the townhouses, which will have two car garages, will likely be developed by one builder.

Caplan said the price of the homes will be up to the builder, but the plan is to develop something "comparable to what you would find in the surrounding neighborhoods."