Board approves Rouse proposal But changes ordered in mixed-use plan to ease its impact


The Howard County Zoning Board approved yesterday the Rouse Co.'s revised plan to build a Columbia-style village in North Laurel, but ordered the developer to make more changes to cushion the impact of the project.

Rouse said it accepts the terms of the board's decision. The developer must now submit a detailed sketch plan to the county planning board.

"We can live with the [board's] decision," said Alton J. Scavo, Rouse senior vice president. "We now just have to wait and go through the long, long processing period."

The board recommended:

That a loop connector road be completely built between Gorman Road and Route 216 by the time 30 percent of the development is completed. That percentage was lowered by 5 percentage points from Rouse's preliminary plan.

That no employment sites be build west of Interstate 95 until the loop connector road is completed -- with the exception of one of two village center-like focal points.

That Rouse be allowed to build 60 moderately priced housing units at any time during the development. The affordable housing units could be built in addition to the 120 residential units Rouse can build each year.

Yesterday's decision by the board came one day after the county Planning Board recommended approval of a similar mixed-use community in nearby Fulton.

Together, the developments could have a major impact on the area around North Laurel and throughout southern Howard County.

By requiring the modifications, the Zoning Board likely will make the development process easier on area residents, many of whom vehemently opposed the project during months of contentious hearings.

Greg Fries, chairman of the Southern Howard County Land Use Committee, said the board's decision to approve the plan was "really a moot point. The transportation issue is important, but the Rouse Co. would have had to build the loop road anyway."

With the Fulton mixed-use de- velopment in process, Fries said the "southeastern part of the county will be overwhelmed by development."

Two months ago, Rouse officials retooled their project according to specifications set by the Zoning Board, which was concerned about housing density in the development.

The new version of the preliminary development plan calls for fewer homes and more commercial space. The proposal calls for 1,201 residential units and almost doubles the commercial space from 89 acres in the original plan to 155.

Peter Oswald, president of the Greater Beaufort Park Citizens Association, said that while Rouse's revised plan was better for North Laurel residents than its original, the board's decision last night eventually would cost the county -- and residents -- money.

"We've been arguing for a long time against this property and its zoning," Oswald said. "This decision says to me that the original [planned employment center] zoning was indeed the correct one, that the property is perfect as a planned employment center."

Earlier this year, the Zoning Board, which comprises the five members of the County Council, approved rezoning the property from employment to mixed use and required Rouse to submit another development plan with a number of adjustments.

Commercial property in the area will now have to cost "over $300,000 per unit in order to produce tax revenue," Oswald said. "With all the other development in the area, that's just too much."

Pub Date: 6/03/98

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