An Ellicott City community group is trying to block the Carroll family's latest plan to cluster 325 detached new homes on the same northeastern corner of Doughoregan Manor that was to have become an Erickson retirement community.
The Chateau Ridge Lake Community Association, which is made up of several hundred homes off Centennial Lane near Burnside Drive, tried to block or delay consideration of another 500 acres of the historic estate for inclusion in the county's Agricultural Preservation program. Despite that, county officials said the tract was included among those the Agricultural Land Preservation Board deemed desirable in a five-hour meeting Monday at the county fairgrounds.
The 892-acre estate is between Frederick Road on the north, Folly Quarter Road on the west, and Route 108 on the south. Its eastern boundaries are the residential communities off Centennial Lane.
Victor A. Illenda, president of the 190-home community association, said his group intends to hire a lawyer and seek allies among residents who live along other borders of the nearly three-century-old estate to stop the clustering plan. Their objection to the preservation application, he said, is that it "is premature and blocks all other options" because it makes clustering almost inevitable.
"There needs to be more work done" to study and evaluate the Carrolls' plan, Illenda said.
In an e-mail, Illenda wrote that "the existing plan serves only the Carrolls at the expense of surrounding communities."
Illenda sent a two-page list of objections to the plan to the agricultural board dated Oct. 31, asking for a delay in considering Doughoregan, the once-10,000-acre Colonial farm of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. His famously private descendants still own the historic manor house and outbuildings and the surrounding land, and are trying to develop part of that property so they can restore the buildings and preserve the rest for their family.
But Illenda noted in his letter that "the plans do not offer any public access (present or future) to the sites being preserved."
Erickson backed out of the original development plan last summer, and the Carrolls revealed their new idea in September, using the same basic division of their property, but for single-family homes instead.
The new homes would be clustered on about 186 acres in the northeastern corner of the land near Frederick Road, which would be the access point. The family would donate 36 acres to expand Kiwanis Wallas Park, seek to preserve 500 acres in addition to the 75 acres already preserved, and keep about 90 more acres surrounding the manor house and several dozen other buildings, some of which are also historic.
Joseph Rutter, the former county planning director hired as the family's consultant, told residents at a community meeting last month that he was willing to work with them and share information, though Illenda sent his letter in opposition without notifying Rutter.
Rutter said the family has the right to develop about 400 detached homes on wells and septic systems to raise the money they need, but that would force building over the entire estate.
He said the board's actions "appear to be a good sign," arguing that the Carrolls' plan follows the county's General Plan and is the best option for preserving the most land. Rutter labeled Illenda's objections "the classic not-in-my-backyard" reaction.
In his letter, Illenda wrote that his group opposes amending the county General Plan to allow clustering, and also opposes extending water and sewer service west of the existing western boundary for that, which runs along the eastern edge of Doughoregan. He complained of "negative environmental and traffic impacts," and asked for traffic and environmental studies. Illenda said houses might be better suited to other parts of the estate, perhaps along Folly Quarter Road on the estate's western edge, instead of grouped on the east.
He also objected to having a single Frederick Road entrance for 286 of the new homes, as did several residents of Frederick Road at the information meeting. The Chateau Ridge residents vehemently oppose any access to the property through their community, however.
County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat who represents the area, supported Illenda's attempt to get more information, she said.
"It is a complex challenge that requires persistence on the part of everyone in finding the optimal solution. The surrounding communities are acting in good faith, and are fully participating in the process, which I find very positive," she said.
Although details of the board's rankings were not revealed, county planning director Marsha McLaughlin said the Doughoregan land is highly valued and is still in the running for a county preservation offer.