Builders voicing support for site; Mixed-use proposal draws much interest


If Stewart J. Greenebaum gets approval from the Howard County Zoning Board to convert a turkey farm in Fulton into a community of homes and businesses, neighbors say it would become their worst nightmare.

But for area builders, it would be a dream come true.

For more than a year, builders have been closely eyeing Greenebaum's plan with the hope that they will be selected to build the proposed 1,198 residential units on the Iager property, west of U.S. 29 and bounded by state Route 216 and Johns Hopkins Road.

"We've received many calls from builders, but a decision has not been made," Greenebaum said. "It would be presumptuous of me to make any commitments to anyone at this stage -- we're still seeking approval."

The builders signaled their interest when more than a dozen attended the first Zoning Board hearing on the project Sept. 1. Representatives from Ryan Homes, Ryland Homes, Patriot Homes, and other builders were present, with some volunteering to testify in support of the construction of the mixed-used community.

"Mr. Greenebaum is trying to build nice homes and is being responsible about it. It's unfortunate that the community is trying to stop him," said Colin Churs, a supervisor with NVR Homes Inc.

Churs said that he was there to provide "moral support for the project," but was uncertain whether his company is seeking to win a contract to build the homes.

Jean Privett, a settlement administrator at Patriot Homes, had no problem indicating why she was at the hearing.

"I'm hoping that my company will be able to build there," Privett said. "I think we would be an asset to the neighborhood, especially because we have had a lot of success in building in this kind of neighborhood."

'A big project'

To Greenebaum, the builders' interest in this project highlights its importance.

"These guys are smart," Greenebaum said. "They recognize that this is going to be an excellent community and would like to build here."

"This is a big project for all involved," he added.

Getting approval for his plan remains a hurdle. But Greenebaum is hoping to break ground by 2001.

Residents continue to fiercely oppose the project, claiming that it would drastically overburden schools and roads, and wipe out the rural landscape that they bought into years ago.

End of peace and quiet?

"The idea sounds like a nice concept, kind of like Columbia," said Fleurette Carleen of Fulton. "But destroying the integrity of the existing neighborhood is quite objectionable," she added.

"Most of us moved out here because of the peace and quiet. To have that destroyed is really distressing," she said.

Despite that concern, attracting new residents and national companies to the area would be relatively easy, said Greenebaum and Realtor Elaine Northrop, who also attended the first hearing.

"What he's planning on building will become little town America," Northrop said. "It will not be hard to attract the people and the industry here. It's a perfect location."

Potential windfall

From a fiscal standpoint, Greenebaum said, his project would generate millions of dollars in revenue for the county. At a hearing before the Zoning Board last week, he said he could bring a Fortune 500 company to the area.

"Our economic report indicates that $3 million will directly benefit the county," he said. "Well over $2 million in salaries will be coming here from the companies we will attract, and newcomers to the area will pay Maryland state income tax for the first time, and Howard County will get the 'piggy back' [income] taxes."

Greenebaum said that individuals who live in the community likely will work and shop in the community, thus minimizing traffic and keeping financial resources in the county.

"People are going to generally spend money in the community that they live in," he said.

Richard W. Story, executive director of Howard County's Economic Development Authority, would not comment specifically on Greenebaum's plan, but said that mixed-used communities tend to benefit the county financially.

"You need a balance of residential and commercial to generate tax revenue," Story said. "Mixed-used communities tend to provide that balance."

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