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Risk-reward decision looms


THEY MAY alter it. Almost certainly they will. But pass it they must.

After an exhaustive set of hearings, the county zoning board will hold its last work session on the Maple Lawn Farms proposal Monday night.

A straw vote could be taken then.

The board may elect one of three options: Reject as is; approve as is; modify. In the latter case, the project would go back to the county Planning Department for further review.

The developer, Greenebaum & Rose, might also have a decision to make in the event of major changes: Would the project still be financially feasible? If not, the firm might decide to seek an alternative. Many millions have been spent already to acquire about 500 acres in the Fulton area south of Columbia on Route 29.

The zoning board, as always, picks up a heavy burden of responsibility to the project's neighbors, to the county's plan for economic development and to the developer.

To preserve objectivity, board members are not permitted to discuss such matters except during their sessions before they vote. One might want to see continuing discussion to be sure the implications of change are clear, but the restrictions are necessary.

The project has been controversial. In an area where the underlying zoning is rural residential, the developers would build multi-floor office structures, 495 single-family detached homes, 437 townhouses and 236 condominiums.

These numbers could be altered. The developer could be subjected to restrictions on the pace of construction as adjacent roads are improved.

But this project could be a showpiece for Smart Growth: work, school and job site would be within walking distance of many who settle there.

The idea is sound. Some risk can be tolerated to test it.

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