Residents will have to wait another year for the redevelopment of Long Reach Village Center in Columbia, after the county’s Zoning Board decided it would not review the project this spring.
In October, the Zoning Board announced that all pending cases would need to be scheduled and heard by mid-April to have decisions made before the June 26 primary election. The Zoning Board, made up of the County Council members, is not legally allowed to hear cases after the election.
Orchard Development Corp. president Scott Armiger, developer of the project, said he was informed in a memo to his attorney Todd Brown last week that the Zoning Board could not schedule a date by mid-April to hear the case.
“The Zoning Board members worked to find additional dates and were unable to find possible hearing dates before the deadline,” Zoning Board administrative assistant Robin Regner wrote in the memo. “Therefore, your request to schedule prior to the seating of the new Council/Zoning Board is denied.”
The board also recently chose not to hear the redevelopment plans for Hickory Ridge Village Center in Columbia, due to concern that the case could not be heard in one night because of the significant community interest in the project.
The county’s Planning Board unanimously approved the Long Reach project on March 8, the final step before it could head to the Zoning Board. Plans to revamp the ailing village center have been underway since 2014.
The Zoning Board’s decision means that the Long Reach project cannot go before the Zoning Board for approval until at least December 2018, when a new County Council takes office. Four of the five council members are not running for re-election.
Amy Gowan, deputy director of the Department of Planning and Zoning, said that it is likely the case will not be heard until early 2019, given the time it will take the new council members to “get up to speed” on planning and zoning matters.
The revamped village center, with plans for a mixed use center including more than 400 residential units and a village green, was proposed to have its first buildings open in 2020, but Armiger said that likely won’t happen until 2021.
Orchard’s purchase of the county’s portion of the property, 7.7 acres, is now also on hold for a year, as the sale is contingent on the Zoning Board’s approval.
“We were very disappointed. We had worked so hard and so diligently to make that April date,” Armiger said. “I don’t know what more we can do to have it heard, I thought we did everything we were supposed to do, we know how important this is to the county and to the community. It’s a shame it’s going to sit for a year with no activity.”