Neighbors prefer town houses over stores


An article in Wednesday's Howard County Sun omitted the year of an enrollment projection for Swansfield Elementary School. By September 1994, the school's enrollment is expected to decline to 562, or three students over its capacity. We regret the error.

Members of the Hickory Ridge village board and village residents responded favorably Monday to the Rouse Co.'s plans for developing town houses instead of a shopping center in Clary's Forest.

"I really firmly believe that it's best suited for residential use," said former board member Carol Thelen, who lives less than a half-mile from the property.

Plans for the 14-acre site, at the corner where Little Patuxent Parkway loops back into itself, call for between 100 and 120 town houses on 10 or 11 acres, leaving the rest as open space. The site is surrounded by apartments and condominiums.

Several residents said they would like to have a more convenient place to get groceries and other necessities but understood that a neighborhood shopping center would not work at the site.

"In order to attract [stores] to this location, they would have to feel that they could attract from a larger area," said Gerald E. Brock, Rouse Co. vice president and senior development director.

To do that, he said, the commercial site would need a large specialty store, such as a home improvement center, to attract people from outside the neighborhood.

Thelen said that was troublesome because the Little Patuxent Parkway loop already has traffic problems, and a regional center would make them worse.

The loop has been the site of two major accidents this year. In one, an 11-year-old girl was killed by a delivery van as she stepped from a school bus in February.

All but one of the 14 residents at the meeting agreed that #F developing town houses would be preferable to a shopping center that attracted shoppers from all over Columbia.

Residents asked how this plan would affect overcrowding at Swansfield Elementary School, which is projected to be 6 percent over capacity, with 593 children, in September.

However, the school's enrollment is expected to decline, and by September is projected to be 562, or three students over capacity, said William Grau, a planner for the school system.

If the proposed town house development had 120 homes and were occupied by September 1994, it would be expected to add about 22 children to the school. With another planned development next to Harper's Choice village expected to add between 35 and 40 children, the new homes would put Swansfield at roughly 12 percent over capacity, Grau said.

Under the county's new adequate facilities law, residential development is permitted as long as schools are not 20 percent over capacity.

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