Long Reach Village Center's plan review gets a reprieve

Kate Magill
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

After days of pushback from the county executive and community groups over a potential yearlong delay in a review of the Long Reach Village Center’s redevelopment proposal, the case will be heard by the Zoning Board this spring.

The project’s developer, Orchard Development Corp., needs a change in zoning to allow about 300 housing units and the county’s Zoning Board was unsure whether it could hold required public meetings and make a decision before the June 26 primary election.

The Zoning Board, made up of the Howard County Council, will receive public comments on the project on May 7. All zoning decisions must be made before the primary.

Board chairwoman Jen Terrasa wrote in a letter last week that because there has been no opposition to the redevelopment plans, the board believes the case can be heard in one night.

If that is not possible, Terrasa said that “there is no guarantee” the case will be decided in the council’s term, pushing a decision until after a new County Council is sworn in this December.

“We all care very much about the future of Long Reach, and recognize how inextricably intertwined that future is with the success of the Long Reach Village Center,” she wrote. “That is why the Zoning Board members have worked together to make this work.”

The board announced in October that it would not hear any zoning cases after mid-April, in order to provide enough time to finish existing cases before the June deadline. Terrasa said the board made an exception for the project.

County Executive Allan Kittleman expressed frustration in a letter to the board earlier this month after it chose not to schedule a hearing for the project, potentially pushing its timeline back a year.

The county has been involved with plans to remake the village center, in Columbia, for more than three years. One concept plan includes a village green, shops and restaurants, medical offices and a vertical garden, in addition to housing.

Community groups, including the Columbia Association and the Oakland Mills Village Association, also sent letters to Terrasa requesting that she reconsider the board’s scheduling.

If a decision on the project is made this spring, it would put the village center’s redevelopment back on track to open its first buildings in 2020, Orchard Development President Scott Armiger said.

Ellicott City-based Orchard Development has proposed more than 250 housing units and 50 town homes.

“We’re extremely pleased that [the board] reconsidered given all the work put forth to meet the deadline,” Armiger said. “And we [saw] no reason why it cannot be scheduled.”

A Zoning Board hearing has not been scheduled for Hickory Ridge Village Center, which also has redevelopment plans underway.

Terrasa said that the board was aware of more opposition to that project, making it unlikely that a hearing could be finished in one night. That case will not be heard until after the new County Council takes over in December.

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