The developer of a proposed apartment complex in Elkridge won a victory when the Howard County Zoning Board voted, 4-1, on Tuesday to grant a request for increased density.
Howard Research and Development Corporation asked county officials to change the zoning of 18.6 acres at the intersection of Lark Brown and Old Waterloo roads in Elkridge. The request included an increase in density for a proposed apartment project called Paragon at Gateway Overlook. Previous development plans included an employment center and fewer residential units.
“What we’re proposing is a high-end rental alternative,” said Jonathan Mayers, president of Chesapeake Realty Partners, who was representing the developer.
He said the target rental market was “the barbell population" of 25–34-year old professionals and 55-plus snowbirds, who he said were the "two ends of the housing market...driving the changes in housing."
Paragon at Gateway Overlook would contain 320 one- and two-bedroom apartments in five buildings on land that had been zoned for employment use, according to the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning's report.
Greg Fox (R-Fulton) opposed the zoning change to residential, stating he was “concerned about the fiscal impact” 320 apartments would have on the area.
The apartments were projected to result in approximately 39 to 49 new school students, according to documentation provided by developers to the Zoning Board.
For public schooling, Howard County spends $13,660 per pupil annually.
"I think it appears to be a good project," said Fox. "I'm just concerned about the over and over and over again reduction in commercial and manufacturing property and the decreasing percentage of our tax base in commercial revenues ... it concerns me."
Joseph Rutter, a land planner who testified on behalf of the developer, said that additional commercial space didn’t make sense. To the west is the Gateway Overlook shopping center, home to stores such as Costco, Lowe’s and Best Buy.
“It could be more big box—that’s what it’s zoned for—but that’s not where the market is,” said Rutter, who said more people were going online to make purchases.
Although she agreed with Rutter, zoning board member Courtney Watson (D-Ellicott City/Elkridge) said she could understand where Fox was coming from because of a prior zoning case.
"You and I were the only ones that voted aginst a major change from manufacturing to residential [on Coca Cola Drive], so this one does concern me from that standpoint," said Watson. "But if you think about it in terms of what makes sense to go there ... I don’t see a commercial use there. You say it's near [Interstate] 95, but the road network there is not great for commercial access."
“Do you realize that more residents leave the county to go to work than to come to work?” Fox asked his colleagues on the zoning board. He also asked someone to recall the last time the county rezoned residential land for commercial use.
"It's not a case of, is there a mistake in the zoning?" said Rutter. "Rather, it's an opportunity to amend the preliminary development plan in an efficient and effective way for this area … we believe it is a minor change."
The Department of Planning and Zoning will issue a decision and order making the ruling official in approximately two weeks.