Southeast Howard County's North Laurel Park will become "a jumbled mess" if major improvements aren't made soon to the community's roadways, sidewalks, storm water management facilities and sewers, a county planning official said this week.
The comment by Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of the county planning and zoning department, reflects official and community concerns over the growing home construction in the area and the lack of adequate utilities to serve it.
Ms. McLaughlin and members of a citizen committee studying problems in North Laurel Park plan to present their preliminary findings at the North Laurel Civic Association's monthly meeting 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Laurel Woods Elementary School. They also want to hear whether there is community support for capital projects to make the needed improvements.
County Councilman Dennis R. Schrader commissioned the study North Laurel Park's problems in February as part of his proposal to draft a master plan to guide improvements for the North Laurel-Savage area -- an area that includes almost 20,000 county residents.
Rampant development in the North Laurel-Savage area -- bounded roughly by Gorman Road on the north, U.S. 29 to the west and Howard County's borders to the south and east -- has overburdened area roads, water and sewer systems, schools and recreation and park facilities.
Ms. McLaughlin and the committee on North Laurel Park -- a community bounded by Route 216 to the south, U.S. 1 to the east and Whiskey Bottom Road to the north -- have found that community to have one of the worst problems.
About 490 undeveloped North Laurel Park lots were subdivided 99 years ago and are not subject to the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, which is aimed at ensuring there are sufficient utilities to support new construction.
Builders must construct single family homes on these lots, but they don't have to upgrade the water and sewer lines, storm water management facilities and roads to handle the increased demand.
That has made coping with growth in southeast Howard County even more difficult.
"Anybody can build anytime they want," said North Laurel resident Donna Thewes, who sits on the committee studying North Laurel Park. "That hurts this community a lot.
"It's not like we're really anti-growth. We just want some control, and we want some sort of management here."
Recent development has brought more traffic, crowding in the schools and more burdens for an already inadequate drainage system.
On Cissell Avenue, where Ms. Thewes lives, there is just one one-foot-square drain for a street that is about a quarter-mile long and has almost two dozen homes.
Ms. McLaughlin and members of the North Laurel Park committee say a capital project will give a more comprehensive approach to solving the community's utility problems -- an approach that would include larger storm water management facilities and water and sewer lines as well as wider roads.
Over the past two years, North Laurel Park residents have seen construction of homes eat away at the wooded areas around their lots but without sufficient enlargement of the area's drainage system to handle increased runoff.
As a result, some older homes have had increased drainage problems, with flooding occurring whenever it rains.
The primary builder in the area, Cornerstone Homes, a 5-year-old Baltimore company, has sold 60 homes in North Laurel Park and is discussing purchasing some of the other undeveloped lots with the owners.
Brian Boy, one of the partners at Cornerstone, said his company would be willing to help pay for infrastructure improvements that will help support the community's growth.
"I have been in discussions with the county and am very supportive of improving existing infrastructure and master planning North Laurel Park," Mr. Boy said.
The committee also has proposed such options as having lot owners pay for the county capital projects as well as having the county bear part of the bill.
However, finding county dollars might prove difficult.
"Budgets are obviously very tight right now," Ms. McLaughlin said. "There's so much competition for county dollars."