Permission sought for massive development

Published 8:38 pm Saturday, September 18, 2010

City staffers are recommending denial of a rezoning request that would clear the way for a massive residential and commercial development south of downtown. They also are recommending denial of a comprehensive plan amendment for the same project.

The developers, South Suffolk Properties, LLC, hope to put nearly 2,500 single- and multi-family residential units and 164,000 square feet of commercial space on the 462-acre development. A public hearing on the plan will be held Tuesday.

The developers are offering to provide a 19-acre site for an elementary school on White Marsh Road, to extend public utilities to the site from Carolina Road and to construct a new roadway to serve the development’s residents. In addition, the developers have proffered an initial sum of nearly $24 million for middle school and high school capacity, more firefighters and police officers and library resources.

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The development, which would be called Four Farms, could attract more than 5,000 residents when completed, according to an application for the rezoning. It also would include space for office, grocery and retail establishments. A multitude of small parks, lakes and open spaces, including the predominant “Grand Central Community Park,” also are planned.

However, the complex may not get off the ground if plans don’t change. The city’s traffic engineering and planning staffs have recommended denial of the plan in its current form.

The chief concern is the traffic condition in that area. East Washington Street already is congested during peak times, and a number of intersections along the road are jammed during rush hour and when trains block the road. A traffic study showed that by 2023, even without the Four Farms development, two nearby intersections will be at unacceptable levels of service during the evening peak hours.

With the development, the study predicted traffic would back up through multiple intersections on East Washington Street during peak hours.

The development’s master plan calls for two entrances on Hosier Road and six on White Marsh Road. The traffic study also showed the two entrances on Hosier Road would carry about 70 percent of the development’s traffic.

Recommended actions in the developer’s plan include coordinating the signals along East Washington Street and constructing improvements to existing roads. In addition, a new connector highway between Hosier and Carolina roads could reduce traffic on East Washington Street.

According to a planning department summary, traffic engineering found even a new roadway would not alleviate enough traffic concerns.

“While the applicant is proposing to construct a new roadway that will provide additional capacity to serve the development, the East Washington Street corridor is already constrained by capacity issues,” the statement said. “Those existing capacity issues will be compounded by adding additional traffic generated by the proposed development.”

Tuesday’s public hearing will be conducted by the Planning Commission in City Council chambers, 441 Market St., at 2 p.m.