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The Baltimore County Council gave the go-ahead on Monday for a developer to go through an alternative review process for a project of 200-plus homes on the waterfront in Essex.

Manekin, the Columbia-based developer, is proposing to build Water's Landing at Middle River which would put 207 single-family homes and townhomes on one of the last undeveloped waterfront parcels in Essex. Manekin intends to use the planned-unit development process, which gives the company flexibility in zoning rules in exchange for a benefit to the community — in this case, $50,000 for water-quality projects.

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Planned-unit developments must be endorsed by the Baltimore County Council before being reviewed by county agencies. Water's Landing also will need approval from the state's Critical Area Commission, which regulates developments near the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins, a Democrat who represents the area and sponsored the Water's Landing bill, stressed that the council's vote is just a preliminary matter and more approvals will be needed before the homes can be built.

"I'm just the gatekeeper," Bevins said before the 7-0 council vote.

Still, a handful of people voiced concerns about Water's Landing during the public comment period after the vote.

Charlotta Turner, who lives in the neighboring Hopewell Pointe community, passed out orange fliers that offered suggestions such as allowing fewer homes on the property and keeping them farther from the water. She was disappointed in the vote.

"I don't feel like all of the concerns of the community were heard," she said.

The current Eastern Family Resource Center, which houses a shelter and health and social services offices, has outgrown its aging building on the Franklin Square Medical Center campus. The hospital plans to take over the existing resource center building and give the county $5 million and another parcel in exchange. The new parcel is currently a parking lot further away from existing hospital buildings.

The replacement shelter and resource center is expected to cost $25 million and could open by the end of 2016.

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