Plans to move forward with an affordable housing project in Elkridge have been put on hold for now, three weeks after members of a neighboring community brought concerns about the development before the Howard County Council.
At the request of Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, the council voted Monday, Oct. 7, to withdraw two bills that would have allowed the developer of the Deep Falls Apartments project to seek affordable housing funds from the state.
At a public hearing Sept. 16, and a work session Sept. 23, residents of Village Towns, a townhouse community that abuts the proposed Deep Falls site, said they were worried that new development next door would worsen the community's already considerable traffic problems and endanger their children, who often play in the street.
Because of the site's location between Village Towns and I-95, Deep Falls residents would have to drive through Village Towns to enter their own community.
County officials and the developer, Ingerman Group, say they want to continue to work toward a solution with the Village Towns community. They are hopeful that if all goes well, they they can come back with a new plan for the council next year.
"The county executive remains hopeful that we can fulfill our important objective of providing more affordable housing in Howard County, while at the same time creating more open space and a better parking and traffic situation for nearby residents. The dialogue will continue," said county communications director David Nitkin in a statement.
Although no plans for the Deep Falls project had been submitted to the county, Ingerman development principal John Randolph said in the public hearing that the community would consist of two apartment buildings with a total of 60 units. There would also be a lodge with a gym and community room as well as a parking lot on the approximately 6-acre site.
Council members expressed concern that the project was moving too quickly for them to be able to approve it without reservations. The project was first introduced to the council in September and needed to be approved by early October to meet funding application deadlines.
Tom Carbo, director of Howard County Housing, said the timeline was the result of "unfortunate circumstance." He said the state, which in the past had biannual funding deadlines, decided this summer to restrict the competitive funding process to one deadline, in the fall.
County Council member Calvin Ball, who represents District 2, where Village Towns and the proposed Deep Falls site are located, said the bill's withdrawal would allow more time for problem-solving.
"Withdrawing these pieces of legislation to respond to community concerns will allow us more time to not only support a full spectrum of housing but to also respect the needs of the existing communities," he said.
John Lawall, president of the Village Towns 2 condo association, said he looked forward to working with Ingerman and the county to fix his neighborhood's parking issues.
"We do want to get all of these issues resolved, regardless of apartments or no apartments," he said.
Lawall said he had spoken with John Randolph, development principal for Ingerman, after the vote.
"I think [Ingerman's] goal is to come back next year and put a new application in, and I think within that time it is their goal to gather whatever county staff that's necessary to really dig into some of these issues and concerns that we've brought to their attention… and get them resolved," Lawall said.
He added that the community was taking its own steps toward finding solutions. The community invited Howard County Fire Chief Bill Goddard for a neighborhood walk last weekend to pinpoint which streets had congestion that might hinder emergency vehicle access.
Carbo said the housing department and Ingerman would continue to work with the community to look for ways to improve traffic flow, including possibly bringing in H&H Rock, the developer of Village Towns.
"We're exploring all possible options and what we can do to solve all the concerns," he said.