Ellicott City developer Michael L. Pfau withdrew last week his fourth set of house designs under review by Howard County's Historic District Commission, which must approve the plans before he can begin construction on a 15-home development in the town's historic district.
At the developer's request, the commission scheduled an "advisory" meeting Jan. 28 to give Pfau -- president of Trinity Homes Inc. -- more direction on how he can modify the designs to meet the panel's guidelines.
"I think it's been an incremental process," said Stephen Lafferty, deputy director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning. "With each submission, Mr. Pfau has gotten greater clarity on the guidelines and how they apply to his plans."
A Department of Planning and Zoning staff report recommended that the commission approve the designs with some minor changes.
Commission members delivered strongly worded critiques of the plans at a hearing Jan. 8. They told Pfau that his designs had improved after three earlier submissions, but still were not compatible with the century-old homes on upper Church Road.
Residents, who have opposed the project, the Woods at Park Place, for four years, testified at the hearing that the proposed homes were too big for the small lots on Pfau's property. The developer said the homes would start at $600,000.
The Historic District Commission oversees repair, renovation and construction in the county's two historic districts, in Ellicott City and Elkridge.
The Woods at Park Place presents a challenge to the panel because it is the first time that the commission has been charged with giving its approval to a new, large subdivision, by historic district standards.
"The whole scenario is unusual," Lafferty said. "It's certainly very unusual to see a subdivision of this size."