Simpson Oaks Development Update

     At their meeting on November 10, the Howard County Zoning Board heard Chesapeake Realty Partners’ (CRP) request to consider the modifications made to the Simpson Oaks development plan as “minor.” Per the Community Enhancement Floating (CEF) District zoning regulations (Section 121.0 (L)), if the changes are “minor” then the developer does not need to re-start the zoning process. Sang Oh, Esquire, represented the developer and in conjunction with testimony provided by Robert Vogel, Vogel Engineering, presented the modifications made during the Sketch Plan review process (S-15-007). Matthew Brenner, Grateful Heart Gate, spoke in favor of the amenities being planned to connect the community to the Robinson Nature Center. Mavourene Robinson, Board Member and Chair of the River Hill Development Committee, presented the Association’s testimony which:
• acknowledged the Association’s preference for the revised plan;
• stated the community outreach conducted by CRP was adequate;
• requested that the number of overflow parking spaces not be reduced and that CRP look for opportunities to expand overflow parking as the plan continues to move through the County’s review process;
• asked the developer to retain as many existing, mature, quality trees as possible in the open space between Pointers Run and the new development;
• supported the construction of a bikeway along Grace Drive, trail along the Middle Patuxent River, and a bridge connection to the Robinson Nature Center;
• reiterated the desire to annex the development into the Village of River Hill; and
• expressed the need to maintain the integrity of the CEF-R zoning approval process.
     The Zoning Board unanimously (4-0-0) agreed that the changes presented by the developer in the Sketch Plan (S-15-007) are “minor.” Therefore, it is not necessary for CRP to re-start the process. However, the Zoning Board acknowledged that changes to the CEF-R zoning regulations are needed. They noted the need for an approval mechanism that does not require that the re-zoning process be restarted when plans have been modified but meet the County’s requirements and have community support.
     What are the next steps? First, the Sketch Plan needs to be signed by the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ). Once this has occurred, DPZ will determine whether there are sufficient housing allocations and the elementary and middle schools are open. Following these approvals, the developer will have up to 9 months to submit a Preliminary Plan. There will be no postings at the Preliminary Plan stage, though the community will still be able to submit input directly to the developer and DPZ.
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