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Chalice's first plans approved


David E. Forester, Rouse Co. vice president and senior development director, was misquoted in yesterday's Howard County edition of The Sun. Explaining the timing of Columbia's development and the roads that serve it at a meeting Wednesday night, Mr. Forester said, "It's very rare to have the public facilities built ahead of development."

The Sun regrets the error.

Despite a chorus of Long Reach residents' concerns that roads in the area can't handle the traffic Rouse Co. plans for Columbia's second giant warehouse-style retail complex, the Howard County Planning Board approved the development's initial set of plans last night.

In a 3-0 vote, with two members absent, the board approved a plan outlining the 66-acre Chalice Commercial project, a collection of 440,000 square feet of "big box" retail stores along Route 175 across from Dobbin Center.

Before Rouse can begin building, it has to submit two sets of more detailed plans for the site, both of which have to be approved by the board. Those will include details of the site's layout but will not allow the board to reverse last night's approval of the project.

The vote came after Rouse executives confirmed speculation that the store's first tenant would be a Target store. David Forester, Rouse vice president and senior development director, said construction would probably begin next year and the store would open in the first half of 1997.

Mr. Forester praised the Planning Board's decision, saying Rouse had addressed a number of resident concerns.

One concern, that the center would draw business away from an already struggling Long Reach Village Center, prompted a pledge from Rouse last night that liquor and food stores would be prohibited from the new center.

But Cecilia Januszkiewicz, chairwoman of the Long Reach Village Board, said she was disappointed with the board's decision.

"They could [have] delayed approval until the road improvements were built," she said.

Rouse and county government plans call for additional through-lanes and lengthened turn-lanes at the intersection of Dobbin Road and Route 175, and a major overpass interchange to replace the intersection at Snowden River Parkway and Route 175.

"Some of the center is going to be built before the improvements are in place," Ms. Januszkiewicz said, which could mean that Long Reach residents will become "prisoners" of impossible traffic.

The Chalice project is part of a county boom in "power center" warehouse-sized store development that also includes Rouse's Snowden Square development less than a mile west of the Chalice tract on Snowden River Parkway, a Wal-Mart department store planned for U.S. 29 and U.S. 40 in Ellicott City, a large-scale shopping center at U.S. 29 and Route 100.

Planning Board Chairwoman Joan Lancos said repeatedly throughout the 2 1/2 -hour meeting that the board could only consider four criteria in approving the Chalice plan, called a comprehensive sketch plan. Those criteria included the adequacy of roads, adequacy of utilities and public facilities, extent and potential use of open space, and impact of the use on the surrounding residential properties.

Ms. Lancos said after the meeting that she shared a concern about the timing of the road improvements, but no one suggested to the board to link the schedule of improvements to the Chalice project.

Before voting on the project, Ms. Lancos was jeered by residents when she said, "My only comment is, I sure hope these roads are done in a hurry."

Mr. Forester said the completion of the project needs to be timed to the completion of the road improvements. He noted that before Rouse began developing Columbia, there was no Route 175.

"It's very rare to have the public facilities built after the development," he said after the meeting.

During the meeting, Mr. Forester said the project's first stores would open in 1997, and that it would take about two years for the rest of the stores to be completed. That schedule mirrors the timetable that the road improvements are expected to follow, he said.

Mr. Forester also presented the board with a letter from county Public Works Director James M. Irvin saying the county was committed to building the new Snowden River Parkway interchange with Route 175 on the same timetable.

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