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Rouse mixed-use development appears unfettered; Board postpones vote on zoning amendment


For the moment, it looks as if the Rouse Co.'s plan to build a Columbia-style village in North Laurel can proceed without any new obstacles.

The Howard County Planning Board hinted Wednesday night that it would attach a condition to proposed zoning legislation that would exempt the Rouse project from limits on major mixed-use developments. The board postponed that night a vote on the legislation; it meets March 11 for a work session.

Three members of the five-member board agreed at the meeting that development proposals that have received preliminary-plan approval from the county should not be subject to the limitations proposed by County Councilman Guy Guzzone.

The county Department of Planning and Zoning has approved Rouse's preliminary development plan, which calls for the construction of 1,145 homes on 517 acres divided by Interstate 95 and bounded by Route 216 to the south and Gorman Road to the north.

Guzzone, a North Laurel Democrat, said his bill didn't target the Rouse project because it had received preliminary approval.

"It was never my intention that it would retroactively apply to the Rouse Co.," Guzzone said. "I think it will probably be OK."

But an officer of a civic organization battling the Rouse plan said it shouldn't be exempted.

"I think grandfathering is inappropriate," said Greg Fries, president of the Southern Howard Land Use Committee, an umbrella group of about a dozen homeowners' associations. "The problem is that [a mixed-use development] is an opportunity for catastrophe if it's not done right. The amendment is trying to ensure that it doesn't become a disaster."

The amendment would require a number of new controls, including the construction and opening of roads to traffic before final subdivision plans are approved by the county.

The legislation would also demand that a detailed fiscal impact analysis of each project be prepared by the Department of Planning and Zoning and that 30 percent of the open space be usable for active recreation.

Planning and Zoning's technical staff report has suggested reducing the open-space requirement from 30 percent to 10 percent, easing the road requirement and eliminating the fiscal analysis.

The board's postponement means that Guzzone's amendment will not be ready in time for Monday's County Council meeting, which is when new legislation must be filed.

Instead, the council will have to wait until April to review the bill.

Pub Date: 2/26/99

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