Opponents of more intense development for the Turf Valley golf course resort in western Howard County won an unexpected victory last night when the developers withdrew their rezoning request for more density.
The surprise action by Mangione Family Enterprises came in a one-sentence letter to County Council Chairman Guy Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat who announced that a council hearing on the Turf Valley case scheduled for tomorrow night will be canceled.
The council held a rezoning hearing on other proposed land-use changes last night in Ellicott City.
The county Planning Board recommended last week against a zoning change to allow more homes at Turf Valley, though the board had earlier approved a larger supermarket.
"This has become a very big issue," Guzzone said before convening the hearing on the other rezoning proposals along the seven miles of the U.S. 40 corridor from Patapsco State Park west to Turf Valley.
The fight over Turf Valley also highlights the often difficult, politically tinged struggle between planners and Smart Growth advocates on one hand and suburban residents on the other over how dense development should be on land designated for building.
"People see Turf Valley as having broader implications" on sensitive countywide issues like school crowding and highway congestion, Guzzone said.
Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a western county Republican whose district includes Turf Valley, said residents should feel grateful to the Mangiones for going so slow in developing their land.
The Mangiones' move leaves intact a 20-year-old plan to build 1,379 homes and a million square feet of commercial space at Turf Valley. The plan was approved so long ago it predates newer laws on reforestation and a 1992 ordinance delaying projects if schools and roads are too crowded.
Though pleased at their victory, residents Marc Norman and Frank Martin warily proclaimed it a tactical triumph at best. Their goal, they said, is to get the County Council to reduce the development's density, not just block its intensification. Turf Valley now includes a hotel, two golf courses and 130 homes. The rezoning requested by the Mangiones would have allowed a planned supermarket to expand from 18,000 to 65,000 square feet; 121 more housing units; and slightly relaxed building height restrictions on the 800-acre property.
"It's a big victory," said Martin, who with Norman spearheaded a campaign by area residents to defeat the Mangiones' attempt to intensify the project.
But Norman said the Mangiones' withdrawal takes the issue out of the public spotlight, and he suspects the rezoning request will be renewed later.
"We haven't yet won,"Norman said.
Residents will now press council members to change the site's zoning by reducing the number of homes and the amount of commercial space to be built there.
Richard Talkin, the Mangiones' attorney, said the family's action came partly because of the debate over how Turf Valley's development would affect traffic, schools and congestion, mixed with debate over the location, design and number of units on the property.
The County Council is considering zoning changes on 41 properties left over from last year's comprehensive rezoning. A vote is expected in March.