New senior community approved in North Laurel

A patch of woods along Gorman Road in North Laurel is on its way to becoming a new senior community, and it's got a name that evokes nothing less than Henry David Thoreau's famous treatise on living in harmony with nature. 

The Howard County Planning Board voted on July 17 to approve plans for Walden Woods, a 97-home, age-restricted development near Gorman Road's intersection with Skylark Boulevard. 

Elm Street Development plans to build 87 town homes, 10 detached units and a community center on the 18.6-acre plot of land, according to a staff report by the county's Department of Planning and Zoning. Sketches included in the site development plan show spacious townhomes with stone and paneled facades, nestled among the trees on streets with names like Wilderness Lane, Knowledge Drive and Simplicity Court. 

The planned senior community is located just south of Wincopia Farms, a 220-home development also off of Gorman Road that is currently under construction.

The Walden Woods site will feature 11.2 acres of open space, although 14.8 acres will be disrupted during the construction process to install underground utility lines, according to the staff report. 

The community will also boast ample parking: plans show 430 parking spaces, while only 274 spots are required. 

Planning Board member Bill Santos said he thought the parking accommodations were excessive, which is why he voted against the project. 

With a carriage-style two-car garage for each town home, "more than 70 percent of the face of the building is dedicated to cars," Santos said. "I felt [the project] really wasn't in keeping with trying to balance different modes of transportation."

Three other Planning Board members voted to approve the project. Board member Phil Engelke was not present for the July 17 meeting. 

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