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Communities support zoning change


Developer Robert DeStefano is edging closer to winning widespread support for a change in a county zoning law that would allow him to build a retail and residential project on 66 acres along Waugh Chapel Road and Route 3.

Crofton Civic Association and the Four Seasons Community Association -- together representing about 5,000 households -- voted Monday to support Mr. DeStefano's Village at Waugh Chapel development and the legislation that would make it possible. The legislation is to come before the County Council in the next month.

Last night, the Greater Crofton Council -- representing 11,000 households -- delayed its vote until next month so members could review a final draft of the legislation.

Mr. DeStefano of Sturbridge Development Co. in Annapolis has proposed creating a zoning category called a "community service center growth management district." When a developer applied for the category, the county would appoint a citizen committee to work with the developer to plan the project.

Once approved, the plan could not be changed without the citizen committee's approval -- even if the land were sold.

Mr. DeStefano is working with communities, Councilman Bert L. Rice and the county planning staff to draft the legislation. Mr. Rice said he will not form an opinion on the legislation until after the county legal office reviews it.

The Village at Waugh Chapel would include about 200 apartments for the elderly, a home improvement center, a grocery store, medical offices, stores, restaurants and a community center. Mr. DeStefano said it could be a model for the zoning category.

"The biggest, single-most advantage of this legislation is that communities have say under the law," he said. "If a developer can't win the community over, he should pack his bags and go home."

Community leaders say they are giving the proposal the nod because it would allow them to be involved in new development.

"The important thing to us is our continuing influence over the property," Four Seasons President Joan Berry said yesterday.

The St. Stephens Area Civic Association has opposed the project and the legislation.

"We feel it takes away from the legislative power in a democratic society," said John Lilly, president of the association, which represents about 600 households.

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