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County to study Turf Valley plan

Howard County planning and zoning staff will research how much a proposal to increase the housing density permitted at Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center would cost in additional services, county officials said yesterday.

The report will compare the plan to build up to 1,600 homes and 444,000 square feet of commercial space on the 809-acre complex in Ellicott City with the projected impact of as many as 400 additional units, said Marsha McLaughlin, the county planning director.

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She said the report would be completed in time for the Howard County Council to use when it tackles the remainder of the comprehensive rezoning process in the fall.

Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City-Elkridge Republican, first raised the need for such studies during the budget process. He requested $50,000 to hire consultants to study large developments because "you're going to get a more objective, independent analysis" than if developers conducted such studies. But County Executive James N. Robey did not include the funding because he said the request came too late and county staff is qualified to do the analysis.

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Merdon disagreed, questioning whether the county had the necessary experience and information.

"I'm happy they are going to pursue fiscal impact studies," he said yesterday. "I would be happier if they decided to do it with a consultant."

Marc Norman, a resident of one of Turf Valley's first subdivisions who opposed the density increase, agreed. "While we're happy that there's an effort to start to get an understanding of what's going on here, I can only be hopeful of what the outcome will be," he said.

Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, a western Howard Republican who represents Turf Valley, said he was pleased with the decision to conduct the study, especially because the methodology would be public.

"It's important that [the study] be credible and validated," Kittleman said. "I think this is a good move and this is a positive one."

Mangione Family Enterprises, which owns Turf Valley, petitioned Howard County in the early 1980s for zoning to create a "planned golf course community," which would allow a variety of homes and commercial and office space around two golf courses, or an equivalent amount of open space.

After closing one of its three golf courses, Turf Valley sought to increase the zone's density from 2 to 2.5 units an acre through the county's recent comprehensive rezoning process. But neighbors, including residents of the project's first two subdivisions, raised concerns about the effect that even the original development proposal would have on crowded roads and schools.

Turf Valley is conditionally exempt from county growth controls such as the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance because it was approved before they were enacted. County planning and schools officials have said that they account for Turf Valley's projected growth in their projections.

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Residents point out, however, that development continued in surrounding areas and, as a result, Manor Woods Elementary School is over capacity.

A committee was set up to research effects on traffic, schools and the environment.

At a meeting of the committee yesterday, Louis Mangione, vice president for development for Mangione Family Enterprises, announced that plans for Turf Valley's residential component would be revised so that about 200 to 250 additional homes would be built - the maximum allowed under existing zoning. These homes would be subject to the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, he said.

He added that he plans to build about 100 units a year. Fewer than 200 homes have been constructed at Turf Valley so far.

"We spent the '90s concentrating on our golf courses and resorts," Mangione said. "We're going to go as fast as we can from now on."


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