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County panel asks for more data on Rouse proposal for N. Laurel; Inconsistencies noted in plan for village


The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning has temporarily derailed a plan for a 1,145-unit Columbia-style village in North Laurel.

The department's Subdivision Review Committee -- a group of representatives from county agencies -- concluded Thursday that the comprehensive sketch plan had too many inconsistencies and gaps for the committee to recommend it for approval to the Planning Board, Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr. said yesterday.

Rutter said the questions are minor and not likely to block the Rouse Co. from developing the mixed-use complex on the 517-acre Key Property.

"For something this large to get through on the first try would have been a miracle," he said. "We're just asking for more information."

Alton J. Scavo, senior vice president for Rouse, did not seem agitated by the request for more information.

"It's inevitable because you have another set of eyes reviewing it from another perspective," he said. "That's due process. It's not very unusual."

Rouse, which developed Columbia more than 30 years ago, wants to build 395 single-family houses, 500 townhouses and 250 apartments on the property, which is divided by Interstate 95 and bounded by Gorman Road to the north and Route 216 to the south.

The proposal also calls for the development of more than 1.2 million square feet of employment space, 100,000 square feet of retail and service space and 183 acres of open space.

Rutter said concerns raised by the committee included the omission of stream buffers and storm-water management ponds on several pages of the plan and a discrepancy concerning gross acreage between the comprehensive sketch and preliminary development plans, the latter having been approved by the Zoning Board in June.

Rutter said he would also ask Rouse to submit an updated traffic study. The director placed part of the blame on his office, acknowledging that it did not provide the company with updated traffic data.

"We're not saying it's wrong or it's right," Rutter said. "There are just some things that are not there."

Greg Fries, chairman of the Southern Howard Land Use Committee, which is fighting the proposed development, said Rouse should include the impact of a proposed 200-home project on 200 acres just north of the Key Property in the revised traffic study.

"I find it unusual that they point out every little development that would use Route 216 to get it improved, but they don't mention their other plan," Fries said. "I would be very much surprised if they included that in their traffic study."

Pub Date: 1/20/99

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