The Montgomery County Planning Board approved only 49 units of a planned 355-unit subdivision on part of the Washingtonian Country Club grounds near Gaithersburg last week because, board members said, the area's roads can only handle a small amount of new traffic at this time.
Developer Jay Alfandre had originally planned to build 900 units on the 148-acres when he unveiled his project almost two years ago. That number dropped to 710 units in the face of opposition from Gaithersburg residents, then to 355 by the time Alfandre submitted a written proposal to the County Planning Board this summer.
Alfandre and his attorney were out of town this week and could not be reached for comment.
Board spokesman John R. Hoover said the board's action has precedent, saying the board has approved subdivisions in increments as a way of making sure the traffic and sewer needs generated by them can be met.
"If public services are full to capacity, then they can deny a subdivision, even if the subdivision conforms to the zoning," said Hoover. "Until there are improvements in the road conditions, they cannot go ahead with this one."
The property, along Muddy Branch Road and Rte. 28, is in a fast-developing part of the county where houses are being built at a rapid clip and traffic on nearby roads is very heavy.
Part of the property encompasses the smaller of two golf courses owned by the Washingtonian Country Club.
Hoover said that Route 28 will be widened in the next few years and that Alfandre has agreed to contribute an undetermined amount of money for improvements on that road and two smaller ones that run through his property. Alfandre has also agreed that 12 1/2 percent of the new homes he builds will be for moderate-income families, selling for around $70,000 each, Hoover said.
According to plans filed in the county planning office, 269 units of the 355-unit subdivision would be single-family detached houses, 42 would be market-priced town houses, and 44 units would be moderately priced town houses.
Alfandre had initially asked that the property, which he is under contract to buy, be annexed to Gaithersburg. Local residents were opposed, because they said the proposed subdivision was too dense and would create too much of a demand on local roads and schools.
The County Planning Board approved the move last spring, but the Gaithersburg City Council rejected the proposed annexation a short time later. Alfandre then came back to the county with a scaled-down version this summer.
Hoover said there is no way of knowing when the remaining 306 units of the proposed subdivision will be approved, if ever. He said, under the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, the board can wait until it is sure the traffic generated by any addition to the subdivision can be absorbed by county roads.
"However, that area is scheduled for road improvements in the state capital improvements fund," he said. "The roads are going to be widened and there are going to be improvements. He Alfandre can see that is a few years down the road."