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Housing called better use for Elkridge industrial land


Sensitive wetlands, steep slopes and the need to build a bridge the length of a football field.

For these reasons -- a landowner told the Howard County Zoning Board last night -- it is almost impossible to develop industry on a 34-acre sliver of land in Elkridge just east of the Interstate 95-Route 175 interchange.

Instead, Blue Stream Partnership Ltd. wants to develop small pods of inexpensive housing -- either mobile homes or prefabricated "modular homes." To do so, it needs a zoning reclassification from light manufacturing to mobile home residential.

The board took no action but seemed to be receptive to the idea. Chairman Darrel Drown said the board will decide within a month.

In the past, the zoning change has been opposed by the county school board as well as professional planners in the county Department of Planning and Zoning.

Saying that schools in the area are too crowded, the school board took an unprecedented step this year by involving itself in planning and zoning issues. But the board did not participate last night.

Planners want to keep the area zoned for industrial use so Howard can attract new industry to balance the high cost of providing services to the thousands of new residents expected in the county.

Arnold Sagner, a managing partner of Blue Stream, seemed to impress the board with his presentation.

To connect the land to Blue Stream industrial property to the north, he said, a 300-foot bridge would have to be built over Deep Run. A bridge would have to span sensitive banks of the stream and slopes are too steep to support large, industrial buildings, he said.

"The cost of developing it -- unless the land was in Hong Kong -- just doesn't work" for industrial buildings, he said. The 34 acres arebetween I-95 and U.S. 1, behind a mobile home park.

Zoning board member C. Vernon Gray said it is difficult to place affordable housing in Howard, and the board should consider doing so when it has a chance.

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