Development gets approval

Published 10:38 pm Thursday, October 22, 2009

City leaders on Wednesday granted a rezoning request to a project hoping to bring more than 300 housing units to the area southeast of downtown.

Davis Boulevard, LLC plans 111 single-family homes and 197 townhouses in its development at the end of the existing Davis Boulevard, east of White Marsh Road and south of East Washington Street. The development would connect to a planned Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority development that would provide housing opportunities for current residents and first-time homebuyers, and also would seek to revitalize the White Marsh Plaza shopping center.

The development would include “workforce housing,” according to attorney Whitney Saunders, who represented the developers at the public hearing. Though it is not a public project, Davis Boulevard comes as an answer to the need for affordable housing in the area.

“This is a direct result of what you’ve asked for,” Saunders told the council. “We believe that we’re bringing you a project that’s responsive to your request.”

The developers offered to upgrade two nearby sewer stations and give the school system money for middle school capacity.

Several residents of the East Suffolk Gardens and Lake Kennedy neighborhoods came to the meeting to express concerns over the amount of traffic the project will generate.

“We’ve got to get out of the neighborhood,” said William Goodman, president of the East Suffolk Gardens Civic League and a planning commissioner. “We are being inundated with traffic.”

Goodman abstained from the vote on the matter when it was before the planning commission in September. That body voted 5-1 to recommend approval to the City Council.

Eddie Hicks, president of the Lake Kennedy Civic League, also said traffic is a concern for residents in his area.

“We’re concerned about another entrance,” he said. “We need an outlet to East Washington Street.”

Both Goodman and Hicks noted there are problems getting in and out of their neighborhoods when there are heavy rains, car accidents or other issues. Many homes in Lake Kennedy have only one way in and one way out, Hicks said.

Goodman asked for the development to be tabled to allow time for the developers and neighborhoods to work out a solution. However, Clarissa McAdoo, the director of SRHA, said getting the approval Wednesday was crucial to the viability of a grant request for SRHA’s project.

“They’re like two Siamese twins,” quipped Vice Mayor Curtis Milteer. “They’ve got to agree to go the same place at the same time.”

Council members voted unanimously to approve the rezoning, and voted again unanimously to direct city staff to continue working with the developers, SRHA and neighborhoods to find traffic solutions.