Howard County

Developer loses bid to keep condo tower alive

With plans for a 23-story luxury condominium tower in central Columbia all but dead, the property's future remains in limbo after a decision by Maryland's highest court that took almost three years to deliver.

Renaissance Centro Columbia LLC, the developer for a mixed-use, retail and 160-unit condominium building at Little Patuxent Parkway and Wincopin Circle, lost its legal bid to keep plans for the tower alive.


The decision released Friday, made largely on procedural grounds, means that the company has to start over to pursue the project and would likely face stricter zoning restrictions passed in the intervening years by the County Council.

"The county believes that any development of the 1.46-acre parcel would be subject to the downtown revitalization process for downtown Columbia," Deputy County Solicitor Paul Johnson wrote in an email.


The Howard County Board of Appeals would have to determine how to proceed.

But it is not clear what will happen, because the parcel has been up for sale since spring, according to Connie Boyd, director of customer communications for Renaissance Centro Columbia's parent company, WCI Communities. Attorneys for WCI, a Florida-based developer, could not be reached for comment Friday.

The tower was proposed in 2005, and prospective buyers began signing up, but the project met resistance from some Columbia residents who felt it was far too tall.

"I would've been looking at a wall," had the tower been built, said Joel Broida, a Columbia resident who lives across from the site. "I'm looking at grass now."

Instead of a tower, he would like to see a park that would be a place for farmers' markets in summer and ice skating in winter.

"That would be lovely. That would being people to town — it would be an asset to the community," he said. Residents "don't want a monstrosity. This isn't Manhattan."

When Broida and three other residents appealed a planning board decision in January 2007, Renaissance sought to have the appeal dismissed, arguing that the residents lacked legal standing.

The county Board of Appeals held unanimously that the other three residents had no legal standing in the matter, but tied, 2-2, on Broida, because he lives in a building next to the tower site. The developer sued in circuit court, bypassing a final decision by the board, and Renaissance won a dismissal.


But because it sued before the county's Board of Appeals reached a decision with a majority vote, the circuit court decision, as well as a later decision by the Court of Special Appeals were incorrect, according to the Court of Appeals, which means the matter of Broida's standing is unresolved.