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Hearing postponed on Iager Farm site Developer's request for delay approved; no reason given


Hearings on one of the largest proposed mixed-use communities to be built in Howard County since Columbia was developed more than three decades ago will not begin until June.

Stewart J. Greenebaum, who wants to develop the 507-acre Iager Farm in Fulton, had asked the county Zoning Board this month to schedule the hearing in June. No date has been set. The hearings could have begun as early as next month.

"The petitioner requested that we delay the hearing, and we didn't ask him why," said Guy J. Guzzone, vice chairman of the county Zoning Board, who confirmed that Greenebaum's request for a delay had been granted.

"We're fortunate if we can slow the project down," said Peter G. Oswald, vice president of the Greater Beaufort Park Citizens Association. The association, which has aggressively fought the proposal and negotiated with Greenebaum over the mixed-use plan, welcomes the delay.

The developer hopes to break ground in 2000.

The hearing delay is the second granted to Greenebaum for the property he purchased last year from farmers Eugene and Charles Iager Jr., who are raising 20,000 turkeys on the farm, one of the largest of about 12 turkey farms in Maryland that sell directly to consumers.

In July, the developer won a postponement of a public hearing before the Zoning Board after he and community residents differed over the impact that the 1,168-home project would have on roads, schools and the tax base.

Third planned project

Guzzone said delaying the hearing would give the Zoning Board a chance to tackle "less complicated" projects than the Iager development, which faces fierce community opposition.

The plan, which was approved by the Planning Board in June, outlined a community of single-family houses, townhouses and condominiums; 1.1 million square feet of retail space; and 177 acres of open space west of U.S. 29.

The proposal raised concerns among residents because it is less than three miles from two other mixed-use projects -- Cherrytree Park in Scaggsville and the Rouse Co. planned development in North Laurel. The three projects together would add more than 2,500 houses in southeastern Howard over 10 years.

One of the biggest hurdles in discussions between the developer and Fulton residents over the past year was the phased schedule, according to Oswald.

Greenebaum wanted the project to unfold in two phases. The first would entail 534 homes and 176,000 square feet of office space. The second phase would not begin until improvements to the Route 216 and U.S. 29 interchange were completed in 2004.

Traffic congestion

Oswald and the association wanted Greenebaum to add a third phase that would require him to improve roads to handle increased traffic.

"We're just overwhelmed. Our roads are overstretched," said Oswald. He said he is certain that the Zoning Board, made up of the five County Council members, would be sympathetic to community concerns.

"The new Zoning Board is much more concerned about growth in this area," he said. "There are a lot of things wrong with the mixed-use regulations."

Greenebaum could not be reached for comment.

In a brief interview last month, he acknowledged that he called a meeting with residents to inform them that he planned to submit changes to the plan. The meeting was to solicit their input.

Meeting canceled

Community members said that days before the meeting was to take place, Greenebaum canceled it. Greenebaum said he decided to stick with the original plan for the Fulton site.

"We had really good negotiations with Mr. Greenebaum, but we just couldn't reach a deal," said Tom Dernoga, lawyer for the community group. "We were almost there."

Negotiating has stopped, and residents plan to testify when the Zoning Board sets a June hearing date.

At this point, everyone is in agreement that the project will move forward, Dernoga said. "The question that remains now is when and how much."

Pub Date: 12/24/98

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