14-acre parcel's future discussed


During a Howard County Zoning Board hearing last night on rezoning proposals that dealt with commercial parcels exceeding 100 acres, it was a 14-acre parcel that dominated discussion.

About 20 of the people who showed up at the hearing on the proposed comprehensive rezoning for the east county registered their concern about the requested rezoning to allow denser residential development on the 14-acre parcel. The land is outside the Columbia Association's jurisdiction, so is not subject to the association's fees.

Many of the residents who testified were neighbors of the developer who intends to subdivide the parcel, Paul Revelle of Cardinal Lane.

Mr. Revelle wants to build, in his own back yard, up to 30 homes on the site if it is rezoned from R-20, which allows half-acre lots, to R-12, which allows quarter-acre lots. He can build 22 to 24 homes under existing zoning.

Perhaps because the discussion was among neighbors, it was characterized by none of the harsh words frequently heard during previous hearings on proposed comprehensive rezoning.

"People can disagree, but there's no need to be disagreeable in their disagreement," said Ronald S. Schimel, a zoning attorney. Mr. Schimel represented Ray Bowman, who lives on and owns the 14-acre property on Owen Brown Road.

Chief among the gentle protests was concern that the development would exacerbate an already difficult flooding problem in neighbors' basements.

Jill Allen said a drain on her property "runs like the Colorado River when it rains," and feared that more dense development would increase that flow.

Joann Stolley testified that she needs two sump pumps to keep her basement from flooding.

While the dissenters were in the majority, many neighbors expressed confidence in Mr. Revelle's care as a developer and praised the plans he had shown area residents.

"The houses were clustered nicely with a substantial amount of open space around them," said Doug Gerstmyer, a Cardinal Lane resident.

Mr. Gerstmyer also said he has some of the worst runoff problems in the neighborhood, but that he believed the development might actually improve the situation because of storm-water management requirements.

But Mr. Revelle's next-door neighbors on Cardinal Lane, Larry and Suzanne Ricklin, were not impressed by the plans.

"The reality is . . . it looks very congested, not at all in keeping with the rest of the development," Ms. Ricklin said.

The hearing was held to air rezoning requests that were submitted after the Planning Board heard testimony last winter DTC on the proposed eastern comprehensive rezoning. County Council members, sitting as the Zoning Board, are likely to decide whether to grant the late requests during work sessions this fall.

The Zoning Board is currently deliberating earlier rezoning proposals. Its next work session will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the George Howard county office building.

Last night, the zoning board also heard testimony on proposed regulations, such as one that would create "floating" business zoning and solid waste zoning.

Developers of the 224-acre Troy Hill property between U.S. 1, Interstate 95 and Route 100 in Elkridge asked the board to approve the business zoning category because it would allow them to adapt to a changing commercial real estate market.

The property is now zoned light manufacturing, but tougher financing requirements would make the property easier to develop if about 40 acres could be used for retail stores, said Richard Alter, president of the Manekin Corp.

Several people testified against a proposal to allow a solid waste district in light manufacturing areas to allow waste transfer stations or recycling sorting centers.

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