Oxford Square on Coca Cola Drive is ripe for more housing, but not necessarily prime for drive-through commercial spaces, according to the Howard County Planning Board,
On Thursday evening, the five-member board of citizens appointed by the County Executive voted unanimously in support of the developer’s proposal to increase the number of residential units from 954 to 1,776.
“For this area, we need more apartments, high-quality-type apartments,” said Josh Tzuker, planning board member.
Specifically, Tzuker mentioned the need for housing among people working around Route 100, younger individuals and empty nesters who weren’t looking to buy, and Howard’s pressure to stay competitive with Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City.
Oxford Square developer David Scheffenacker said his project—which will include walk-up garden apartments, wrapper apartments and possibly podium apartments with parking underneath—would fill that need.
“The future of Maryland is very much going to rely on planned development. Our resources are very limited. People continue to have babies and people continue to grow. So where are we going to put everybody? We’re not going to kick them out of the county or out of the state,” said Scheffenacker.
Cathy Hudson of Elkridge, the only citizen to testify at the Sept. 20 hearing, said that she was concerned about planning for infrastructure.
"We need a new system, a system of planning for schools," said Hudson, noting the school system's capital improvement plan, which preceded Oxford Square's presentation before the Planning Board, did not include a high school for Elkridge.
Elkridge schools are currently overcrowded. An elementary school is under construction on Ducketts Lane, opening in 2013. A new middle school is planned within Oxford Square on land Scheffenacker donated, opening in 2014. Elkridge does not have a high school, and one is not needed, according to school planners.
Scheffenacker said his revised plans for Oxford Square reflected the need for longer-term planning and stability.
Building townhomes in addition to apartments would “anchor the community” with residents who would live there more than one or two years, he said.
Leveraging Scheffenacker's request to increase the number of housing units was its location near the Dorsey MARC station in Elkridge.
“You want increased density near transit—it’s the whole goal of transit-oriented development,” said Paul Yeager of the Planning Board.
Oxford Square was zoned in 2010 as a transit-oriented development, a designation that promotes “multi-use centers combining office and high-density residential development" within 3,500 feet of MARC stations, according to Howard County’s zoning regulations.
Given the pedestrian-friendly nature of these communities, the Planning Board voted 4-1 against the developer’s request to include drive-through businesses in his proposal.
“I think we’re going back to car-oriented and I think that’s what we want to get away from,” said Dave Grabowski of the Planning Board.
One person on the board saw drive-throughs as positive for convenience.
“I don’t have an issue with it,” said Planning Board member Jacqueline Easley. “I definitely use as many drive-throughs as possible as a mother.”
The hearing before the County Council, which acts as the Zoning Board, has not yet been scheduled.
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