Marathon hearings on development end; Zoning Board decision on 1,168-home project is expected in May


After seven months of often eye-glazing, technical testimony on the proposal to build a 1,168-home, mixed-use development on the Iager turkey farm in southern Howard County, the Zoning Board hearings are finally over.

Although brief closing arguments (45 minutes per side) must be heard at 8 a.m. May 2 and the Howard County Zoning Board will meet several times later in May to reach a decision, the 32nd hearing, which ended at 11: 15 Tuesday night, was the final one, and no one was more relieved than Guy J. Guzzone, the North Laurel-Savage Democrat who presided over many of the sessions.

"I walked out [after the final hearing], looked up at the moon and almost started howling," he said yesterday morning during the County Council's monthly administrative meeting. In Howard County, the five-member County Council doubles as the Zoning Board.

Relief that testimony is over in the county's longest Zoning Board case was a common sentiment.

"We must have close to 200 exhibits," said council Chairwoman Mary C. Lorsung, a west Columbia Democrat, who was Zoning Board chairwoman until January, when Guzzone took over.

"It has been long. It has been arduous," she said.

Tom Flynn, president of North Laurel Civic Association and one of the community opponents who attended every one of the mostly evening sessions, said, "I'm glad [it's over]. It hasn't been easy. It's been draining to say the least."

"I'm pretty sure everybody's glad it's over," added Greg Fries, president of the Southern Howard County Land Use Committee, the group fighting the Iager farm project of developer Stuart J. Greenebaum and an equally large Rouse Co. project planned along Interstate 95, near Route 216, in North Laurel.

Greenebaum attended most of the sessions and testified, too. Although he feels the opponents may have had more than enough say, he's also happy the testimony is over, he said.

"What most people forget is that this was not a rezoning," he said, noting that the board must vote only on the preliminary development plan for the project, which has the appropriate zoning to go forward.

"One lady came in and testified it should not be built because the land is on an earthquake fault," he said, adding that the council members allowed much more testimony than was needed out of a desire not to offend anyone.

"In the end, the process was abusive to everyone," the Pikesville developer said.

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