A county hearing examiner this week approved the addition of apartments to the upscale mixed-use center planned for the spot soon to be vacated by an Ellicott City motel and diner on Route 40.
Forest Venture has plans to tear down the closed, deteriorating Forest motel and raze or move the still-open Forest Diner, located in the 10000 block of Route 40, and build an outdoor shopping center with deluxe apartment lofts.
The plan is just one of many that will add new shopping centers and residential developments along Route 40, improvements the County Council hopes will upgrade that stretch of the historic road.
The plan was first introduced in August of 2009, but the developer recently asked permission to allow the second floor of the shopping center to be used as apartment space. At a hearing Monday, Dec. 20, Hearing Examiner Michele LaFaivre approved the request.
“This is a really exciting project and it’s the kind of thing that the county wants to be happening along Route 40,” LeFaivre said. “I think this sort of sets a new standard for what the county should accept for redevelopment.”
Altogether, there will be 38 apartments incorporated into the center, according to Sang Oh, the developer’s attorney.
Three Ellicott City residents attended the hearing to voice their concerns about the plan.
Jay Gould said Route 40 already has enough apartment complexes, and a “high density” of such complexes “adversely impacts” residents of long-established neighborhoods.
“I object to the project, it increases density and puts pressure on the school district, and that in turn reduces the value of the community homes,” Gould said.
Oh disputed that contention.
“I would not call this high-density development,” he said. He explained that there would be six apartments per acre, far fewer than the county maximum of 25 units per acre of development.
He added that the tenants intended for the complex were young adults, not families.
“It’s dangerous to predict who will be here, (but) clearly the target here is not for the families,” Oh said. “We’re hoping to add some vitality (to the area) by adding young people here, not people with children.”
Resident Ralph Ballman said that while he was wary of adding apartments to the complex, he supported the planned shopping center.
“I am more or less for this because I think that Route 40 does need revitalization,” he said.
Just this month, Preservation Howard County added the Forest Diner to its annual list of the Top 10 endangered historic sites in Howard County, noting that the six-decades-old diner will be razed unless it is relocated. Follow Kellie Woodhouse on Twitter