is split on the
proposal for Pilot School site
a narrowly split decision the county Planning Board agreed to
join with the Department of Land Use in recommending that County
Council rezone the 15-acre Pilot School property on Garden of
Eden Road to permit construction of an age-restricted community
of mixed housing types.
While there seemed
to be general agreement that in-fill residential development at
the site after the school relocates is a good idea, board
chairman Victor Singer sided with residents of adjacent
Tavistock and nearby Edenridge who opposed the project on the
grounds that its proposed density -- 149 dwelling units, an
average of just shy of 10 per acre -- would be out of keeping
with the 'character' of the neighborhood.
Board member Sandra
Anderson agreed with the opponents that achieving that
concentration by taking advantage of a provision in the Unified
Development Code which provides a density bonus as an incentive
for redeveloping abandoned or blighted sites was not a proper
application of the law.
Mark Weinberg, on
the other hand, argued that the proposed community -- to be
known as Columbia Place -- is exactly what the most recent
iteration of the county's Comprehensive Development Plan
envisions. "If we don't do this type of development in this area
where can we do it?" he asked rhetorically.
The land use
department in its recommendation was unequivocally supportive of
the rezoning. It is consistent with the zoning pattern in the
vicinity and meets the criteria for making use of the
redevelopment ordinance, its position paper, read at the
planning board's business meeting on Nov. 17 but not made
available to the public, said.
After about an hour
of discussion, the board voted four-to-three to concur with the
department's recommendation. William McGlinchey joined Singer
and Anderson in voting against doing so, but did not offer a
Victor Udo, in
effect, provided for concurrence by abstaining from voting. He
said he felt there was ample middle ground between the density
Reybold Group, is seeking and the 60
dwelling units that community residents suggested at the recent
public hearing on the issue to achieve a solution "everybody
will be happy with." Had Udo voted against concurrence, the
result would have been a tie and the matter would go before
Council without a Planning Board recommendation. One of the nine
positions on the board is vacant.
Land use general manager David
Culver said after the meeting that rezoning from the present
residential classification to the residential transitional
classification, if approved by Council, would be conditioned on
compliance with the plan Reybold has put forward. Any
substantive change in the plan, Culver explained, would require
going through the rezoning process again. Council is next
scheduled to vote on rezoning ordinances in February. If
rezoning is granted, the Columbia Place plan will have to go
through the major plan-approval process. If it is found to
comply with the technical requirements of the development code,
approval is essentially automatic.
If the Columbia Place plan is
approved, it will be the first residential application of the
redevelopment ordinance. The ordinance refers to rehabilitating
industrial and commercial sites and apartment complexes.
Columbia Place would include two
four-story condominium buildings with a total of 82 dwelling
units, 50 townhouses and 17 single-family dwellings. All would
be age-restricted; that is, requiring that one of the residents
be age 55 or older and none be younger than 18.
Anderson pointed out that there
is a density bonus provided in code provisions referring to
age-restricted development. Culver during the discussion
indicated that, had it desired, Reybold Group could also have
sought that bonus.
The department's position paper
noted that the plan calls for the condominium buildings to be
situated at the side of the property nearest Concord Pike. The
townhouses would be west of that and the single-family units
located where they would abut Tavistock. About 40% of the
property would be left as open space.
Culver said that the per-acre
density in the portion of Columbia Place that would be
designated for single-family units would be less than the
present per-acre density in neighboring Tavistock.
Singer questioned why the overall
allowable density of the project has been calculated by applying
the entire 25% redevelopment bonus to the basic allowable
density for apartments rather than applying it to each of the
housing types. He said his calculation using the latter method
came out to 124 dwelling units. Culver replied that the entire
plan is considered to be condominium development and that allows
use of the apartment standard.
"The code itself sets out the
density numbers," Culver said. "The debate on [allowable]
density occurred 12 years ago" when the Unified Development Code
The department position paper
noted that the area around Concord Pike and Silverside Road is
heavily commercial with several institutional uses, such as the
Jewish Community Center and the Y.M.C.A. providing a transition
to residential use. The Columbia Place plan mirrors that and is
"compatible with existing mixed uses in the Concord Pike area."
Garden of Eden Road extends west from the Concord
Pike-Silverside Road intersection.
Moreover, the paper added, it
"complies with the goals" of the 2007 updates to the
comprehensive plan and would be a "viable [application of]
That appears to create a
contradiction for Councilman Robert Weiner who, as
representative for the area, would under usual practice sponsor
the rezoning ordinance. He has been a long-time persistent
advocate of so-called 'smart growth', but testified at the
public hearing in opposition to the Columbia Place proposal.
Weiner is presently out of the county and could not be reached