It was 25 years ago that the State Highway Association condemned the land directly north of where Route 29 ends, in anticipation of extending the state road into Baltimore County.
The extension was never built, however, and the state decided it no longer needed the land in Ellicott City. Now, the land has been returned to its original owner, Simon Rosenberg.
Rosenberg, a real estate developer, and his team presented their proposal to turn part of the land into a 185- to 195-home subdivision at a presubmission community meeting Tuesday evening, held at the Ellicott City Senior Center.
The parcel that Rosenberg owns is just under 123 acres and has split zoning of R-20 (residential) and RED (residential environmental development). The residential subdivision will occupy about 45 to 50 acres of the land, sandwiched between streams and trees. The rest of the parcel will be left undisturbed, in compliance with the RED zoning requirement to preserve half of the land in open space.
To the west of the property is a residential community Rosenberg developed along Furrow Avenue; to the north is Patapsco State Park; and to the east is Hollifield Elementary School.
The property is sloped, engineer Paul Woodburn said, and the homes will be built on the high side of it, in between two existing streams. Near the streams are man-made extensions of the trail system that comes from Patapsco State Park, which Woodburn says they anticipate enhancing to allow some trails to run along both sides of the property.
Though Rosenberg plans to subdivide the property into lots, he does not plan to build the homes, so his team did not have many specific details to offer about the homes. Builders will be selected later in the process.
The residences will be single-family-detached homes, spaced about 20 to 30 feet apart, Woodburn said. The lots are more compact than in some other developments without RED zoning requirements.
"Believe it or not, people don't want big lots any more," said William Erskine, the land use attorney on the development team.
Erskine said the property has drawn a lot of interest from prospective builders.
"As soon as my sign went up, my phone has been ringing off the hook," he said. "We're confident it will do well in terms of demand and prices."
The roughly 45 residents who attended the meeting, which is aimed to provide the community, particularly nearby property owners, with information about the project before the process begins, had a lot of questions.
Some were about whether the existing schools and roads could accommodate the development.
Residents who live in the homes south of the property had concerns about traffic, particularly at the planned entrance to the development, directly across from Chapel Avenue. They said it's already very difficult, if not impossible, to make a left-hand turn from Chapel Avenue onto Rogers Avenue, which turns into Old Frederick Road past Route 29.
Erskine said the traffic study is still underway, as engineers were not allowed to begin until after school was back in session.
"The problem is obviously during peak hours, morning and afternoon," he said.
The conceptual plan the development team showed at the meeting labeled a traffic signal at the entrance of the proposed development, across from Chapel Avenue, that would help address residents concerns. However, Erskine said that's not a guarantee.
"Ultimately it's up to the State Highway (Administration) whether they grant that signal," Erskine said, noting the traffic volume on the road would have to support the need for a signal.
As to whether the development would create a burden on schools, Erskine said that's up to the school system and the county to determine through its adequate public facilities process.
Erskine said the development team plans to submit its concept plan to the county in a week or two, after which the county Planning Board will hold a public hearing and decide whether or not to approve the plan. He said he expects it to take at least 15 months for the plan to move through the county approval and allocations process.
"You probably wouldn't see any activity out there before 18 months, on the early side," Erskine said.