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Developer unveils revisions Recreational facility is added, atmosphere made more like village; 'Step in right direction'; Project officials, planners, community share optimism


Sent back to the drawing board by county planners unimpressed with their first try, the developers of the Village at Waugh Chapel are back with a fresh look to their proposed residential and commercial complex.

In overhauling their plans for 71 acres off Route 3 in Crofton, Sturbridge Development Co. took out a movie theater and added an indoor-outdoor recreational complex, left in the senior housing, grocery and department stores, shops, restaurants and the 10,000-square-foot community center, but gave it all a more villagelike feel.

They've put a main street in one part of the proposed village, with buildings on both sides leading up to a center plaza. In the rejected first plan, that had been a large building facing a parking lot on one side.

They also clustered small retail buildings and fast-food restaurants around a courtyard and put in wide, landscaped walkways between the main sections of the development.

Steven R. Cover, director of planning and code enforcement, called all this revision a "step in the right direction."

"We've come a long way with making progress from something that was virtually unacceptable in the beginning to something that is close to what we're looking for," he said yesterday.

Last month, Cover had called the initial village plan little more than "a glorified strip shopping center." Sturbridge, based in Annapolis and headed by Robert DeStefano, is developing the $45 million to $50 million "suburban community center."

The project is the first to be developed under an innovative zoning law that calls for mixed uses on the parcel and gives the community some say in the design.

Project officials presented the overhaul last night to the seven-member planning advisory committee, Cover and others. The committee has been meeting since last year in a sometimes contentious process of reviewing plans for the village.

But committee members, development officials and county planners said they are working under a new spirit of cooperation.

"We have done the things the director asked for," said John S. Pantelides, vice president of Sturbridge.

"We're just hoping that we're given the opportunity to go forward and set that new standard we're all looking for," he said.

The initial plan, presented to the county in November, failed to meet the high standards set in the legislation passed last year by the County Council, according to Cover and other planning officials.

The law, adopted at DeStefano's request, calls for commercial, residential and public spaces; exemplary architecture; features like game courts, plazas and fountains; and preservation of environmental features like trees and streams.

It also established the planning advisory committee of business people and citizens to review plans and set guidelines for landscape and architecture.

But the earlier proposal separated the housing from the rest of the development, instead of mixing the housing with the shops, offices and other components; laid out long, flat buildings around a large expanse of parking with little thought given to pedestrians or to the environment, Cover said then.

The office building is now closer to both the residential and commercial buildings.

The main street design and the addition of walkways make the center "pedestrian friendly," Cover said. And there's a "tremendous amount of interest" in the county in recreation complexes, which could include indoor soccer and lacrosse fields, Cover said.

Several committee members praised the changes.

Edwin F. Dosek, president of the Crofton Civic Association, said he liked the sports complex.

Jane Sinclair, of the St. Stephens Civic Association, called the plan a big improvement, but said she still wants to see more environmental preservation.

A conceptual design review meeting, or public airing of county comments, could be scheduled for the end of next month.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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