Willard H. Marlow has gotten only part of the message. When he went before the Howard County Zoning Board a year ago with plans to build in Fulton, he was turned down. Zoning officials felt that his proposal fell short of the county's vision for a large-scale planned community on the 820-acre Fulton property.
Part of the problem was that Mr. Marlow owns only 32 of the 820 acres and has been unable to reach an agreement with the other land owners to proceed with development.
Despite this setback, Mr. Marlow has returned with a revised plan for a small-scale development, including offices, townhouses and single-family homes, on his portion of the property. While the revised plans are a better attempt at realizing the county's vision, they still fall short of meeting the goals set out when a comprehensive plan was approved for the area two years ago.
Mr. Marlow still has not solved what will happen with the remaining acreage, the majority of which -- 600 acres -- is Maple Lawn Farms. The Iager family, which owns Maple Lawn, is more interested in maintaining it as a farm for now. Although they were once allies, Mr. Marlow and the Iagers have parted company, leaving Mr. Marlow to pursue his plans solo. That creates a problem unless the county is willing to allow the Fulton property to be developed in bits and pieces over a long period. The danger there is in ending up with a hodge-podge of projects that fails to achieve the "full service" model community the county envisioned there.
Mr. Marlow's attempt to satisfy the county's wishes with his new plan is admirable. But unless he can prove that his proposal will fit in with a comprehensive development of the entire 820 acres, county officials should not grant approval.
Officials hardly need to be reminded of the contentious battle that was waged by residents opposed to any development in Fulton. It seems improbable that planning and zoning officials will let the comprehensive plan unravel to appease a single developer. To do so would renege on promises made to the community -- and extinguish a vision.
If Mr. Marlow is unable to negotiate an agreement with the other land owners, perhaps he should consider selling his portion and getting out. The message the county needs to send is: all or nothing.