River Hill Square Construction Underway

Undoubtedly by now readers have noticed that construction of the River Hill Square retail development, on the site of the former River Hill Garden Center, is well underway. Perhaps you’ve been wondering what those huge metal cylinders are for? They are part of the stormwater management system which has been designed to accommodate a 100-year storm. What can the community expect to see happening over the next month or so? The developer anticipates that building construction will begin in mid-August and paving will be complete by the end of August. They are aiming for the center to open in late spring 2020. The United States Post Office, which will have a branch in the center, is the only tenant announced to date.

Meanwhile, construction is occurring on the corner across MD 108 from the center. This project is the start of the realignment of Sheppard Lane. When this work is complete, there will be a 4-way signal at the intersection enabling vehicles to enter/exit the River Hill Square site and allowing for longer turn lanes on Sheppard Lane and MD 108. Sheppard Lane will need to be closed for 1–2 weeks in order to make the connection. The intersection is expected to be complete by late December 2019, although this timeline is dependent on weather and Verizon and BGE schedules. The contractors will do their best to minimize traffic disruptions during construction.

Plans for Ruby Tuesday Site Progressing

What is happening on the site of the former Ruby Tuesday restaurant? In mid-June social media chatter increased when two RV’s with camping-related gear and a large truck cab were observed parking overnight in the lot for several days. Combined with the minimal maintenance occurring on the property, it is not surprising that residents are concerned the site is becoming an eyesore. After doing some research, the community association discovered the RVs belonged to ID Plans Corp. This company was onsite as part of a detailed assessment of the village center being conducted at the request of Kimco Realty. The truck cab was unrelated. JPMorgan Chase Bank, the new owner of the former Ruby Tuesday site, is aware of the concerns and has indicated they plan to take measures to limit unauthorized access to the property and improve its appearance. Unlike with residential properties, Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC), not the village community association, has the responsibility for enforcing maintenance standards on the commercial properties in the village center. HHC is also aware of the community’s concerns.

Representatives from JPMorgan Chase Bank and Core States Inc., an architectural, engineering and construction firm, pre- sented their initial concept plan for constructing a Chase Bank at the association’s Board of Directors meeting on June 3. Their current plan is to locate the new branch building in the southwestern portion of the site, enabling the property to be resubdivided and the section containing the restaurant building to be sold or leased. At this time, it is unknown whether the restaurant building will be razed or repurposed.

The following process has been identified by the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) to redevelop the site:

  • Pre-Submission Community Meeting.
  • Design Advisory Panel (DAP) Meeting. The Clarksville Pike Streetscape Plan and Design Guidelines will be used in conjunction with review by the DAP.
  • Environmental Concept Plan approval by DPZ.
  • Final Subdivision Plan approval by DPZ for re-subdividing the parcel into two lots. Resubdivisions do not require sketch or preliminary plan approval if no public road improvements are required and there is no additional area being included within the parcel.
  • Site Development Plan approval by DPZ.
  • Planning Board approval. Any adjustments or variances to the Final Development Plan (FDP) criteria is reviewed and approved by the Planning Board.

    In addition to the county process, HHC will also need to review and approve the architectural and landscaping plans. The River Hill Community Association anticipates the Pre-Submission Community Meeting will be held in mid-August. When the date and location become available, the meeting information will be publicized via the association’s various communications tools and signage on the property will be posted.

Development Updates (Robinson Overlook & Erickson Living at Limestone Valley)

There continues to be a lot of development-related news in the area surrounding the Village of River Hill!

Robinson Overlook Update

On March 18, Andy Cohen, Senior Vice President, Woda Cooper Companies, gave the association’s Board of Directors an update on the Robinson Overlook mixed income, multi-family rental housing project. The project will be located at 7410 Grace Drive and will be a partnership with the Howard County Housing Commission (HCHC). Woda Cooper will construct and manage the complex and the HCHC will coordinate resident services such as after school programs. Five, 3-story buildings with dormers will be located on the site for a total of 48 apartment units ranging in size from 1-bedroom to 3-bedrooms. Financing for the project will be through a low-income housing tax credit program administered by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

The Environmental Concept Plan (ECP-19-005) has been approved and was signed in March 2019. The next step is for the developer to submit the Site Development Plan for review (SDP). Many of the utilities were previously installed on the site as part of a different project. Therefore, actual construction is expected to take less time than usual. The county’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO), that is designed to manage growth and ensure that adequate public roads, schools, and other facilities are provided in a timely manner, will apply to the project. However, the county’s development regulations, Section 16.1103(e) – Special Affordable Housing Opportunities, allow for exceptions to the school capacity test in order to balance the county’s affordable housing goals and adequate school facilities. Woda Cooper plans to apply for an exception. Therefore, the County Council and the County Executive must approve either a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement or a resolution authorizing the project to proceed. As a part of the approval of the PILOT or resolution, the County Council must hold a public hearing on the matter. A decision must be reached prior to the SDP being signed.

Woda Cooper’s current timeline is:
• Late March/Early April 2019 – Submit SDP
• June/July 2019 – Public Hearing on APFO Exception
• August 2019 – SDP Approval
• September 2019 – Receive Building Permits/Commence Construction
• August 2020 – Complete Construction
• December 2020 – Complete Leasing/Fully Operational Housing

The River Hill Board of Directors raised the following concerns at the March meeting:
• Overcrowding at Pointers Run Elementary School and Atholton High School;
• Vehicular and pedestrian safety on Grace Drive;
• Adequate play space and amenities for children; and
• Aesthetics of the buildings and amount of hardscape.

The plans for landscaping include removal of the overgrowth and re-planting of the steep slope fronting on Grace Drive. The developer is required to provide a site distance analysis at the community’s entrance/exit and must measure actual speeds as a part of this study. The developer anticipates that the bike lane planned as a part of the Cedar Creek residential project will narrow the roadway and will aid in lowering vehicle speeds. Although sidewalks will be installed along the property’s frontage, the developer has no plans to complete connections to Cedar Lane or to the W.R. Grace site. Their engineers are investigating whether it will be possible to tie the site to the Robinson Nature Center.

Once the SDP has been submitted to the county, residents may request to review the plans at the Department of Planning and Zoning’s (DPZ) Public Service Counter (1st Floor George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City), Monday – Thursday, 8 a.m-5 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m.-3 p.m. DPZ can be reached at 410-313-2350 or planning@howardcountymd.gov.

Zoning Change Recommended (Erickson Living at Limestone Valley)

Erickson Living Properties II, LLC has been developing plans to construct Erickson Living at Limestone Valley, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) on approximately 62 acres fronting on MD 108 in Clarksville. For them to move forward with the development process, the zoning of the site must be changed. On March 21, the Howard County Planning Board reviewed Erickson Living’s petition to amend the zoning of the subject properties from Rural Conservation–Density Exchange Option (RC-DEO) and Business-General (B-2) to a Community Enhancement Floating Zone – Mixed (CEF-M) zone. Following presentations by Department of Planning and Zoning staff and the developer, many Howard County residents testified in support and in opposition to the change. The River Hill Community Association’s (RHCA) Board of Directors testified in support of the CEF-M zoning. A copy of the association’s testimony is available for review at www.villageofriverhill.org.

Following a work session, the Planning Board voted on March 21 to recommend to the Zoning Board that the petition be approved for the purpose of constructing a CCRC as depicted in the Development Concept Plans submitted by Erickson Living. The recommendation for approval included four conditions:
• The Site Development Plan shall comply with the Design Advisory Panel’s recommendations, as determined by the Director of Planning and Zoning.
• Many of the proposed enhancements require approvals from the Maryland State Highway Administration and other regulatory agencies. If an enhancement required per the Decision and Order has not received a full approval prior to the issuance of building permits or construction of the first CCRC residential dwelling, the Petitioner will pay into an escrow account the full cost of constructing that enhancement.
• The Petitioner shall provide details concerning the maintenance over time of the multi-use pathway(s) to ensure safe access and use by the broader community.
• The Petitioner shall work closely with the County to ensure that the needed utility system components can be accommodated on the property.

To watch a video of the March 21 meeting visit: www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Planning-and-Zoning/Boards-and-Commissions/Planning-Board. The next step in the process is for the Zoning Board to make a final decision on the change to a CEF-M zone. Once a date is announced, RHCA will share the information with the community.

Here is a copy of the RHCA Board Testimony: Planning Board ZB-1118M – RHCA Testimony 3.20.19

Erickson Retirement Community Update

The Howard County Council held a hearing on July 16 about Council Bill 59 – 2018. This bill proposes an amendment to the General Plan for Howard County (PlanHoward 2030) by adjusting the Planned Service Area for water and sewer service, the Growth Tier Maps, and the Designated Place Types. The bill applies to approximately 61 acres of land located at the corner of MD 108 and Sheppard Lane on which Erickson Living Properties II, LLC proposes to build a continuing care retirement community. Numerous Howard County residents testified before the Council, both pro and con. The River Hill Community Association submitted oral and written testimony in support of CB 59-2018. View the Association’s written testimony at CB59-2018 RHCA Input 7.13.18.

The County Council was expected to discuss CB 59-2018 at its July 23 work session and to act as early as July 27. For more information, residents can visit https://cc.howardcountymd.gov or contact Jessica Feldmark, Council Administrator, at jFeldmark@HowardCountyMD.gov or 410-313-2001.