Senator Madden urges rejection of Rouse Co. mixed-use proposal Infrastructure would cost state too much, he says


State Sen. Martin G. Madden says he will urge Howard County officials to kill a proposal for a Columbia-style development in North Laurel because the state lacks the money for the roads and other improvements needed to handle the growth.

Speaking Tuesday night to the Southeastern Howard County Regional Association, a newly formed civic organization, Madden said the proposed mixed-use development by Rouse Co. -- Columbia's developer -- would bring too much residential development to the area without adequate public facilities to support it.

Residents fear that the 527.3-acre project -- to be built off Gorman Road, along Interstate 95 -- would overcrowd overburdened schools and worsen traffic snarls at U.S. 29 intersections at Route 216 and Gorman Road. Planners estimate that it would cost the state $31 million to upgrade those intersections -- money Madden insists the state lacks. "There's been no commitment at all to fund these intersections, and I'm not pushing it," Madden, a Republican, told the group of about 40 residents at the Savage Library. "I will be recommending to the county executive that this project be denied."

Rouse's project would be the largest of its kind under a new zoning category called mixed-use -- a designation that aims to re-create the new town zoning style of Columbia in areas throughout the county. A mixed-use district would include single-family homes, multifamily units, retailers and a recreation area.

Madden believes the Rouse site should be developed under its current zoning -- "planned employment center" -- as a business district, but Rouse officials say their studies have shown that such a project would have an even worse impact on the traffic.

"There would be significantly more traffic," Alton Scavo, Rouse senior vice president, said during a telephone interview earlier // this week. "That's what our studies have shown."

County planning and zoning officials agree.

"It would be devastating to the road network," Joseph W. Rutter, director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning, said about construction of a business district instead of the mixed-use development. "That's why we designated it as mixed-use."

Rouse also has said that it would make some road improvements if the project is approved, but the county and state also would have to assume some of the responsibility.

Rouse's project, which would be the third property zoned for mixed-use in southeast Howard, would bring more than 1,400 new homes to the area and thousands of new residents. The proposed site, about the size of a small Columbia village, is bounded by Gorman Road to the north, Route 216 to the south, along Interstate 95 to the east and the Maryland-Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative to the west.

Before Rouse can begin the project, the developer first must have the site rezoned from "planned employment center," a business district, to the mixed-use designation. The developer filed a petition for the change with a preliminary development plan Oct. 25.

The Howard County Citizen's Association (HCCA), a countywide civic organization, has asked the county zoning board to reject the petition because it believes the request for a zoning change and the preliminary development plan should be reviewed separately. The concern is that the petition won't be given enough scrutiny if reviewed as one package.

The zoning board -- a group made up of County Council members -- is considering holding a closed session Jan. 8 to discuss legal procedures for handling HCCA's request.

Just 2 months old, Rouse's proposal has become the single most important issue to residents in southeast Howard. They have banded together to form the Southeastern Howard County Regional Association, a group that represents homeowners' associations and civic groups throughout the southeastern portion of the county.

The group met for the second time Tuesday night, when it established its name and some of its goals. Its main and immediate concern is what impact the mixed-use site will have on residents' suburban and, in some cases, rural lifestyles.

"It's going to deteriorate the quality of life," said Fulton resident Peter Oswald, who attended the Tuesday night meeting.

Tom Flynn, president of the North Laurel Civic Association and one of those who also attended the Tuesday meeting, agreed with Madden, saying that some residents would rather see Rouse develop the site as a business park instead of a housing development because high traffic volume would occur only during business days.

"Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but there's a lot of incentive for a business owners to locate their operations here," Flynn said. "You're putting it in an area that's considered one of the most highly educated in the country."

Flynn also reiterated an opinion regularly voiced by residents in the southeast: "A lot of people here don't want to see another Columbia."

Pub Date: 12/20/96

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