Two Democratic legislators from Columbia are proposing a resolution that would oppose new road connections on Route 216, possibly thwarting the Rouse Co.'s plan to build a 517-acre Columbia-style project in North Laurel.
Rouse plans to build a loop road and connectors to other roads around the proposed development, which would include 1,410 single-family homes, townhouses and apartments on a site straddling Interstate 95, south of Gorman Road and north of Route 216.
Del. Shane Pendergrass said the resolution would urge the State Highway Administration not to grant new access to the heavily traveled Route 216 until it is moved and opened to traffic between I-95 and U.S. 29.
"Building more roads onto Route 216 would cause more traffic and could impact other existing properties," said Pendergrass, who last week proposed the resolution with Del. Frank S. Turner.
A resolution is a nonbinding statement by a legislator that, while not law, can carry great influence.
State legislators from Howard County will vote on the proposal Dec. 2. If approved, it would go to Annapolis in January for a vote by the General Assembly.
Community groups worry that more homes would burden county services, roads and schools. Straining North Laurel's infrastructure should be avoided, Pendergrass said.
Rouse officials have been fighting to change the zoning of their site from employment, which allows retail office buildings and commercial centers, to mixed use -- a designation allowing a mix of homes and businesses.
Tom Flynn, president of the North Laurel Civic Association, said rezoning the Rouse property would overburden area roads, particularly Route 216, a major route to job centers in Baltimore and Washington.
"Traffic along Route 216 will be absolutely chaotic," Flynn said. "The road is dangerous and people are already impatient. You can see it when they have to sit through two or three traffic-light changes."
Rouse Senior Vice President Alton J. Scavo said the proposed resolution targets the area where Rouse has proposed connecting the development to Route 216. That could affect Rouse's residential-development plans in North Laurel.
"I think this resolution is pretty specific," Scavo said. "If you take a look at a map, you can see that our proposed site is located in the same area where the roads connect."
Scavo says the resolution would establish a bad precedent.
"This really confuses the responsibility and the roles between the County Council and the Zoning Board. I really believe that this is not an appropriate bill."
Although state Sen. Martin G. Madden, a Clarksville Republican, opposes Rouse's rezoning efforts, he said he does not support the resolution.
"My concern is that the potential for this to backfire is great," said Madden. "If it's passed, this resolution will not stop development because Rouse can build their site under the existing zoning. This just goes to assure that any traffic will be funneled out onto Gorman Road and Murray Hill Road."
To win a zoning change, Rouse must show that a mistake was made in the 1993 zoning of the site or that the neighborhoods have changed significantly and the site warrants a new designation.
Rouse officials maintain that the North Laurel development would be well-planned and better for local neighborhoods than a primarily industrial site.
Scavo has consistently maintained that the surrounding residential neighborhoods would not blend well with an employment-zoned site.
Pub Date: 11/23/97