Maple Lawn Farms developer Stewart J. Greenebaum doesn't want to take "no" for an answer.
Sure, he's frustrated with the county Zoning Board's decision last week to reject his proposal to more densely develop his expansive residential and commercial project near Fulton. After all, the transformation of this turkey and dairy farm of the same name is one of the biggest endeavors going for this Baltimore-based developer.
But the project that is the focus of his heartburn is also a source of great pride.
On a tour of the emerging neighborhood this week, he pointed to the spacious pool at the $6 million clubhouse complex that just opened; the unfinished but fully leased office building; and the model home, which features a theater room, exercise room, bar and, on the lower level, a home office. That model is selling well, even at more than $1 million.
"Now you tell me this is a bad thing," said Greenebaum as he drove on winding streets with tethered saplings, parked construction equipment and new homes rising close to the sidewalks. "I would think Maple Lawn should be encouraged, not figuring out ways to hurt it." The president of Greenebaum & Rose Associates said he'll ask the Zoning Board to reconsider its vote.
"We were struck by the total lack of discussion," Greenebaum said.
The Zoning Board, which is composed of all members of the County Council, voted 4 to 1 against Greenebaum's proposal to raise the overall density at Maple Lawn from 2.2-2.3 units an acre to 2.7 housing units per acre. Only Charles C. Feaga (R-West County) voted for the increase, calling it "very modest."
"We'll look back 10 to 15 years from now and think we made a mistake," Feaga said about the vote.
After purchasing 97 more acres bordering Maple Lawn, Greenebaum asked the Zoning Board to approve 518 housing units, bringing the total to 1,634 units, in a mix of detached single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. The additional density would help provide moderately priced housing, Greenebaum said, as well as 242 units of senior housing in an area that was originally envisioned for estate homes.
Although the Zoning Board rejected the density increase for the residential area, it approved the developer's request to expand Maple Lawn's commercial office portion from 1.2 million square feet to 1.8 million square feet, said board attorney Paul Johnson.
But Zoning Board Chairman Ken Ulman (D-West Columbia) said circumstances had not changed enough to justify granting all of the developer's proposal.
In rejecting Greenebaum's request, Zoning Board members were mindful of the year-long, contentious process that they navigated as they conducted dozens of hearings and approved in 2000 the original plan to develop 508 acres at Maple Lawn.
"I can't go back on what I signed," said council and board member Guy Guzzone (D-Southeast County).
Since the plan was approved, the pressure to build in Howard has sharpened, said Greenebaum's attorney, Richard B. Talkin.
"The Zoning Board knows there's a tremendous need for housing growth. Maple Lawn is the best place," he said during last Thursday's board meeting.
The area near Fulton has the utility, schools and road capacity to handle the expansion, he said. He also said that in 1993 the county designated the area to accommodate mixed-use developments of up to three homes per acre.
But the residents who skirmished with Greenebaum five years ago once again mustered their arguments and hired an attorney.
"My clients are concerned about the density because they see a whole host of problems," said Towson lawyer G. Macy Nelson.
Greg Brown, president of the Cherrytree Farm Neighborhood Organization, said Greenebaum should lay the matter to rest and work with the zoning he was granted in 2000. "What's there to reconsider?" he asked.
In the days after the Zoning Board vote, residents continued to fret over the matter.
"We're watching our backs," said Beaufort Park resident John W. Adolphsen. "This is not the closing of the story."
Greenebaum feels the same way. He insists Maple Lawn is one of Maryland's best anti-sprawl projects, and if the Zoning Board does not reconsider its decision, he may appeal to the circuit court.
"I think there's lots of law on our side," he said. "It's far from final with us."