On January 21, the Howard County Zoning Board approved a change in zoning to Community Enhancement Floating (CEF) district for the 66 acre parcel of land located between the W.R. Grace headquarters campus and the Pointers Run neighborhood. The zoning change will enable GF Columbia, LLC, which is under contract with W.R. Grace to purchase the property, to move forward with its plans to develop Simpson Oaks, a community of single family detached homes and townhouses.
CEF zones are required to include design features and enhancements that “exceed the minimum standards required by County regulations.” In addition to internal neighborhood paths, an 8’ wide bikeway will connect with the Pointers Run neighborhood and extend along Grace Drive. A wooded area along the Middle Patuxent River and currently owned by W.R. Grace will ultimately be transferred to the County. A natural pathway through this area will provide users with a connection to the Robinson Nature Center, access to river overlooks, and increased opportunities for educational programming. These amenities address the River Hill Community Association’s (RHCA) and residents’ longstanding goals of improving pedestrian and bike safety and connectivity to central Columbia.
During the rezoning process, the developer was responsive to concerns raised by the County, River Hill residents, and the
RHCA. Changes to the Concept Plan made between the initial community pre-submission meeting and the Zoning Board’s approval on January 21 include:
– the addition of an open space buffer between the existing homes on Quiet Night Ride and the development;
– roadway changes and enhancements at the entrance to the development to address vehicle speeding and safety concerns and
to draw attention to a change from an employment zone to a residential area;
– a reduction in the number of housing units from 206 to 184;
– an increase in the number of overflow parking spaces available in the townhouse portion of the development;
– modifications to the setback requirements to be more compatible with those in the Village of River Hill; and
lot configuration adjustment to better protect stream buffer areas.
RHCA remains interested in annexing the Simpson Oaks development into the Village. Discussions on this matter are ongoing
between the River Hill Board of Directors, Columbia Association, and GF Columbia, LLC. If the development is annexed into the Village, property owners will need to adhere to the Association’s Covenants and follow the Architectural Guidelines ensuring greater compatibility with the adjacent Pointers Run neighborhood. Property owners would also pay the Columbia Association assessment, thus providing increased revenue to offset increased demand for RHCA and CA programs, services, and amenities.