The monstrosity of a development proposal, known as the Enclave at Crofton, is not a done deal. There is still hope that something can be done. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Let me first deal with the obvious. I am a candidate for the County Council and so I do have a political stake in this. However, more than that, I have a personal and familial stake in the outcome of this project. I am from Crofton. I grew up on Crofton Parkway about a half mile north of the proposed development and I am currently living and raising my own kids just off the Parkway (in the Ws) about a half mile south of it. I exit and enter Crofton on Crawford Boulevard on my way to and from work. In the Spring and Summer, my kids often ride their bikes from our townhome to their grandparent’s house and cross this site along the way. This bike ride will become significantly more dangerous if these plans are approved. It has been suggested that Democratic candidates are giving the Crofton community a false sense of hope in order to channel anger into partisan gain. There were a lot of candidates, from both parties, at the community meeting on March 12th. I cannot speak for every candidate, but this accusation cannot be applied to me. Crofton is my home. The triangle is my home. It is my children’s home. I have a larger personal and familial stake in this project than anyone else running for local office, period.
It has been said that this project is a done deal and to suggest otherwise is being dishonest. That is false. The final plans have not been approved and neither has the grading permit. There is still time to act. In all likelihood, something will be built there. The plot is privately owned, and the property owner does have a right to put something there. However, there is (1) a very good chance that we can make the development smaller, and (2) a smaller chance, but still a chance, that the project can be stopped. Any reduction in the size of the development is good and is worth advocating for. If it is smaller, the traffic, safety, and school capacity impacts on our community will also be smaller. If it is smaller, then the negative environmental impacts of the project will also be reduced. These are good things, they are within reach, and again, are worth fighting for. If we block it all together, which there is admittedly a smaller chance of, then that is a bonus!
Let me explain the reasons that I believe what I just laid out in the above paragraph.
First, there are still a few modifications that need to be granted for the final plans to be approved in the form that they were shown to us last Monday. Our coalition is still looking into the details of these modification requests, but we know that at least one of them deals with requesting permission to cut down a handful of the specimen trees (the really big ones) that are on the site. If this modification is rejected, then the developers must remove at least a few of the units that they want to build. Again, anything smaller is better.
Second, the justification for the level of residential density of the Enclave represents a clear perversion of the county code and so we have a solid basis on which to appeal the approval of the final plans, and/or the grading permit. Here’s how this works, and I apologize that this is about to get a bit wonky.
The parcel of land in question is zoned C3. Putting any residential development on a C3 parcel is considered a “conditional use,” and so the density that is allowed is governed by Article 18, Title 10 of the County Code. Section 121 of this Title says that the net density of multifamily units on a C3 lot shall not be more than 15 units per acre. Section 122 of this Title says that the net density of townhomes on a C3 lot shall not be more than 5 units per acre. Each of these is a separate “conditional use.” Any reasonable reading of this would mean that on one acre of C3 land a developer could build EITHER 15 multifamily units OR 5 townhomes, but not BOTH. However, BOTH is exactly what the developer is doing, with the blessing of Planning and Zoning.
Last week Phil Hager (the director of planning and zoning) wrote a letter, on which I was CC’d. In that letter we were told: “It should be noted, that the Anne Arundel County Code does not prohibit both conditional uses from being granted concurrently on the same parcel.” They are double counting conditional uses, and we have that in writing.
They are right that the code doesn’t expressly say you can’t double count conditional uses. But it also doesn’t say that you can. Again, a reasonable person reading this section of the code would conclude that this kind of double counting is not the intent of the code.
The logic of double counting, taken only two steps further, would justify putting 15 multifamily units, 5 townhomes, 22 adult independent dwellings, and 22 dwellings for the elderly of moderate means…all on THE SAME acre. That’s 64 units on the same acre. That’s a level of density that is not allowed anywhere in the code that deals with residential zoning. But hey, the code doesn’t prohibit using more than one conditional use at the same time on the same acre – and so if you can use two why not four? Clearly, this is ridiculous, and so clearly this is against the spirit of the code.
The architect claimed over and over again at Monday’s meeting that everything they have done is legal. I don’t believe this is true. I think that they are intentionally misinterpreting the county code in order to justify a level of density that the code does not allow. They claim it’s legal because the executive branch of our county government has given them their blessing. This doesn’t make it legal, it just means that the administration is complicit in the breaking of our laws. This perversion of the code, the double counting of conditional uses, gives us a strong basis to appeal these plans. If we appeal on these grounds and win then the size of the development must decrease significantly. This would be a big deal.
Lastly, if this process gets drawn out past the election and adoption of the new general development plan – then there is an outside chance that the county could buy the land using Project Open Space funds, similar to how they’ve recently entered into negotiations to buy Turtle Run, a 140-acre piece of land that was home to another botched development attempt in South County. The chances of this happening are admittedly small, but if we work to lessen the size of the development and draw out the process then it becomes an option depending on the outcome of the elections in November.
So what do we do now?
Crofton First is going to play point. I’m not going to give the instructions on who to call and what to ask for. I’m going to let them do that (but I’ll share their posts on my social media platforms). The reason for this is because this issue is truly nonpartisan. This is an issue that Democrats and Republicans can all come around. It’s not about party because it’s simply about our community – which is a community that we all share regardless of party or creed. I don’t want to unnecessarily make this issue partisan by trying to take the leadership role. Crofton First will lead, but I will actively participate.
If you’ve read this far, hopefully you agree that there is still time to get some things done. This is not a done deal. There is still hope to, at a minimum, get the size of the Enclave significantly reduced.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.