Developer Kingdon Gould Jr. may have lost the first battle over Konterra, but he has only begun to fight the war to put in place his ambitious mini-city in northern Prince George's County.
The next skirmish will come when the County Council passes on a written version of the Konterra vote it took last week. The council rejected the bulk of Gould's rezoning application for 1,842 acres but approved 35 acres for office construction and another 488 acres for "mixed use" office, commercial and residential development.
Gould's lawyer, Glenn T. Harrell Jr., wants to persuade the council to scale back the restrictions imposed before Gould can start building on the "mixed use" parcel.
Harrell's primary target will be the requirement that work get started on a four-lane highway interchanging with I-95 and linking Old Gunpowder Road with Rte. 1. Such an expressway was approved by the state this year as part of the 20-mile Inter-County Connector between Montgomery and Prince George's counties, but no funds have been earmarked for the massive project and work is not expected to start until the next decade at the earliest.
At a State Highway Administration briefing for county officials Monday, state administrator Hal Kassoff said the future of the Prince George's County portion of the Inter-County Connector depends on what action the county decides to take on development in its northern half.
"If the development were to go forward we'd be prepared to sit down with elected officials and work out funding," Kassoff said.
Rather than holding up Konterra construction, meanwhile,, Harrell wants the council to let Gould start building as soon as other minor road improvements are under way.
Harrell noted that there have been no studies of the traffic that would be generated by the mini-Konterra approved by the council. He argued that there will clearly be far fewer than the 300,000 daily car trips planners had believed Konterra would generate by the time it was completed in 2020.
Specifically, Harrell will suggest that the council delay work on the mixed-use portion only until construction begins on the relocated Van Dusen Road, a new roadway linking I-95 and Sandy Spring Road to lessen north-south traffic congestion.
Harrell's chances before the council appear uncertain. But several council members have indicated that they were troubled by last week's decision, saying that they did not devote enough debate to reach the decision and really did not understand all the details of the proposal.
"That was the first time we heard all these conditions," council member Sue V. Mills said of the compromise engineered by council member Frank Casula. Casula represents the Laurel-Beltsville area, where the Konterra tract is located.
"I think it was a railroad job," added Mills, who voted with Casula but said she would "be disposed to grant a request" to scale back the highway requirement. "We've never voted that fast on anything of that magnitude," Mills said. "We discuss small items to death, and on this one there was just no conversation. Interestingly enough, we haven't discussed it since."
"I was going to go with shaving off some of the mixed-use zoning , and I was told we were going to give all the rest," said council Chairman Floyd Wilson, who agreed with Casula on granting only 488 acres of mixed-use zoning but voted in the minority for rezoning another 329 acres.
"Casula seemingly got cold feet and changed his mind" on the 329-acre vote, Wilson said. "I was as shocked as everybody else in the room."
"I don't know what Mr. Wilson's talking about but I suggest Mr. Wilson talk for Mr. Wilson and not for the council," Casula responded. As to the removing the I-95 interchange condition, he said, "I haven't even considered it, but I'm always open. I haven't closed my mind on it."
No matter what happens at that stage, the Konterra battlefield will then shift, first to the revision of the master plan for the Laurel-Beltsville area, and then to the comprehensive rezoning that will follow.
Work on a new master plan -- which serves as a general guide for development -- started this year and is expected to take until 1986. The master plan will be followed by a "sectional map amendment," or comprehensive rezoning for the region, that is to incorporate specific rezoning recommendations made in the master plan.
Those stages, both of which must win council approval, are key to Gould's eventual success or failure.
In part, that is because the council told the County Planning Board to reconsider Gould's application for rezoning of 329 acres -- 274 acres for town houses and 55 acres for office parks -- after the completion of the comprehensive rezoning process.
But in addition, if the Konterra parcel, now largely slated for detached houses, is rezoned to be more in line with Gould's vision of Konterra as a "mixed-use community" of offices, high-technology manufacturing, and town houses, Gould will be able to build what he wants without returning to the County Council to ask for specific zoning changes.
And because he must wait for two years to seek rezoning on the Konterra parcel in any case, the fact that the comprehensive rezoning process is under way gives Gould a forum to fight for Konterra during that mandatory waiting period.
The comprehensive rezoning process will pit Harrell against many of the same community activists who led the battle against Konterra. Chairing the task force on the master plan revision for the region is William Ferguson, a vice president of the West Laurel Citizens Assocation, who spoke out strongly against Konterra at the council hearing last week.
"There are very few people on that task force who are not interested in Konterra because Konterra is going to have an impact on the entire area," Ferguson said. Still, he added optimistically, "Let's put it this way. I won't say it's going to be contentious until the contentions start."