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Task force seeks public input on U.S. 40 corridor

A task force proposing mixed-use centers along U.S. 40 and Frederick Road will seek more input from community members about their concerns.

Areas around Chatham Mall and Normandy Shopping Center, as well as sites along Frederick Road at St. Johns Lane and at Centennial and Bethany lanes, could be developed with housing, offices and shops under the proposed commercial zoning. The task force charged with charting a course for the corridor's future development outlined its draft plan last week in a workshop that drew more than 100 people to the Ellicott City Senior Center.

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The draft also outlines streetscape plans for segments of the corridor - which stretches from Marriottsville Road to Howard's border with Baltimore County - that attempt to maintain the road's parkway appearance near Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center and Patapsco Valley State Park.

The 20-member task force plans to meet several times next month and in August to finish the draft, incorporating public concerns expressed in last week's workshop about increased traffic and noise, and historic preservation. County planners collected written comments about the plan at the meeting.

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The document will guide the County Council's consideration of commercial zoning requests this fall during the remainder of the comprehensive rezoning process, which is nicknamed "comp light."

Ann Jones, a Valley Mede resident and co-chairwoman of the task force, said that while there was wide public support for proposed lighting improvements and landscaping in the corridor, there was less consensus on zoning changes.

Of particular concern was the proposed mix of residential and commercial development at Frederick Road near the Enchanted Forest shopping center, said Steven M. Johns, a county planner.

"I would think Ellicott City is still a residential town," Globe Drive resident Feng Chen wrote. The county "already allowed lots of commercial development on Route 40. [It] should try ... to preserve Frederick Road."

A resident of The Fairways near Centennial Lane, who did not sign his name, expressed concern that the proposal "will increase too much noise and endanger the privacy for the neighborhood."

Getting such concerns into the open was the goal of the workshop, Johns said.

"We really did hear about certain areas that need a lot more discussion," Johns said. "It seems like at least more dialogue with the community [is needed] to see what their concerns are."

Many worry that traffic spurred by additional development could overwhelm the road before transportation problems could be fixed.

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"Route 40 is not ready for the increased density of land use that would come with mixed-use options for property owners," one resident wrote. "It is not ready for the traffic we have now."

There was broad support for the construction of sidewalks and other amenities for pedestrians, as well as for strengthening and enforcing sign regulations.

A contingent interested in preserving what remains of the former Enchanted Forest amusement park asked the panel to consider changing the property's zoning from commercial to "park" to protect it from development.

"It has great historical significance for both the county and the state," wrote Monica McNew-Metzger of the Enchanted Forest Preservation Society.

The county has no specific recreation zoning districts, Johns said. Instead, parks are allowed uses in most commercial and residential zones.

Another person suggested the former theme park would be best as open space because of the noise and the traffic jams its development would bring.

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Others expressed concern that planned development at Turf Valley was not included in the U.S. 40 study.

The owner of Turf Valley, task force member Lou Mangione of Mangione Family Enterprises, said he is planning a presentation about his proposal for the 800 acres. County officials have also agreed to study the fiscal impact of the property's development on county services.


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