A little more than a year after a group of Fulton residents protested against plans for high-density development at Maple Lawn South, a tract of farmland in southeastern Howard County, the developer has revealed a concept that would bring single-family homes, instead of apartments and town houses, to the site.
The current plans, presented Thursday night to a group of residents gathered at the North Laurel Community Center, show between 176 and 179 single-family homes on the 91.25 acre plot, which is located along Scaggsville Road across from Reservoir High School.
The houses sit on small lots to maximize the open space of the site, which is zoned residential environmental, according to engineer Robert Vogel, who designed the initial concept plan for developers Koch Homes and Murn Development.
The property would have one access point for residents, at the traffic signal along Scaggsville Road, as well as an entrance exclusively for fire and rescue workers on Murphy Road. According to Vogel, the Murphy Road entrance would be paved with "grasscrete," which combines grass and concrete paving.
Other features of the development would include walking trails through the wooded area on the eastern side of the site, a pool and a clubhouse.
The concept represents a big change from last year's preliminary plans, which included apartment buildings near the water tower on Scaggsville Road, a group of town houses in the middle of the property and several single-family homes backing up to existing houses along Murphy Road.
Vogel said a traffic study for the area was in the works and that the developers hoped to submit their concept plan within a month. He anticipated a two-year approval process for the project, and estimated that construction would take five years.
Despite plans moving ahead, the project is still not free of controversy. Since August, Maple Lawn South has been one of several properties involved in a citizen-run effort to bring a handful of changes from last July's comprehensive zoning legislation to referendum on the November general election ballot. The group, Citizens Working to Fix Howard County, takes issue with a zoning overlay on the land that they say could increase its development density.
The issue is currently awaiting trial in the state's Court of Appeals, after a Circuit Court judge ruled against approving the proposed referendum language in late May.
Vogel said that although the developers had the option of requesting the overlay from the county's Zoning Board, they had no plans to do so.
Some community members at the meeting expressed relief that the project did not contain town houses or apartments, as had initially been proposed. But many remained concerned about additional traffic and skeptical that the project's density wouldn't be expanded later.
Eldon Charles, whose property borders the Maple Lawn South farmland, said he liked the new plan better than the old one. But, he noted, the Maple Lawn development down the road, which has brought town houses, retail and office buildings to the once-rural Fulton community, is not yet complete.
"It's too bad they're not doing this after Maple Lawn's done," Charles said. With both projects combined, he thinks the community "is going to burst at the seams.
"There just won't be anymore small-town Fulton, that's the problem," he said. "Everybody likes the way it is now."
Several members of the Citizens Working to Fix Howard County, including the group's attorney, Susan Gray, County Council candidate Alan Schneider and group members Jane and Frederick Gray, whose property touches the Maple Lawn South site, attended the meeting.
Susan Gray urged residents to push for a covenant with developers to lock in the current density.
But developer Chris Murn, president of Murn Development, said he had no intention of changing the plans.
"Time is money; we’re moving forward," he said. "The plan, we’ve really come to think, is a great community, and, to be honest with you, a high-value community."