Rouse Co. executives made a last-minute effort to appease opponents of a 740-home development planned for Long Reach village but fell short last night of persuading the village board to support the plan before the county Planning Board today.
Despite several changes made to the planned development, such as reducing the number of homes, increasing its open space and providing for a longer pathway system, village board members still intend to object to it at the 9:30 a.m. Planning Board meeting.
Meanwhile, in Town Center, members of the Columbia Council stopped short of asking the Planning Board to delay a decision on the development's final plan, which will allow builders to record individual lots.
The village board wrote to the Planning Board last week, raising concerns about small lots, high-density housing and a shortage of parkland in a planned new section of Kendall Ridge, projected to grow from about 3,600 residents to nearly 6,000 over the next two years.
The area, between Routes 175 and 108, is one of the Rouse Co.'s few unfinished sections of Columbia.
The Kendall Ridge III plan calls for 540 multifamily units and 200 single-family homes on 145 acres originally zoned for commercial and industrial use. The village board supported Rouse's request to rezone the land to residential use in 1990.
Chief among the board's complaints was that the 444 proposed townhouses were crammed together, from 11 to 16 units per acre.
Joseph H. Necker Jr., Rouse Co. engineering director for Columbia, said the overall density of the project's townhouses -- just under 12 units per acre -- was in keeping with townhouse communities throughout Columbia. Even so, Rouse planners recently cut the number of townhouses to 431, distributed at about 11 units per acre.
Mr. Necker noted that the project's housing density has been substantially lowered since the land use was approved by the county Zoning Board in 1991. Initially, it was expected to have 921 houses and apartments, and even the most recent version of the plan, with 740 housing units, has been cut to 727 units in the plan to be presented to the Planning Board today.
Although Rouse representatives persuaded board members that the amount of open space in the development was consistent with the rest of Columbia, village board members remained concerned that none of the open space was in the center.
At a separate meeting last night, the Columbia Council decided to send a letter to the Planning Board this morning expressing a general concern that the Rouse Co.'s recent Columbia developments feature higher-density housing, smaller building
lots and less "usable" open space than earlier Columbia neighborhoods.
But after a long debate, the council voted down a proposal to ask the Planning Board to delay making a decision today on the project.
Several council members said they were wary about making that request without the Long Reach village board's approval and concerned that such an action would be overstepping the council's authority.
They said sending a letter to the Planning Board expressing general concerns about recent Columbia developments is tantamount to sending the Rouse Co. a message.
"It would be good to put the Rouse Co. on notice that we do have these concerns and we will be vocal about them," said Councilwoman Suzanne Waller of Town Center.
But Councilwoman Norma Rose of Wilde Lake village, who proposed asking the Planning Board to defer action, said a general message may not carry any weight.
The council is the board of directors for the nonprofit Columbia Association, which imposes an annual levy on Columbia property owners to maintain parklands and manage recreational facilities.
Village board member Ron Beard said altering the Rouse Co.'s )) plan would be fair to the village.
Considering Columbia's careful planning, he said, "Why would you take the last couple of parcels and try to dump everything in it?"