Many Crofton citizens were fearful that the saga of The Enclave, a community that would feature 66 two-over-two condominiums proposed by The Hogan Companies on the south side of Crofton’s front gates, might finally fall into the category of lost battles.
However, that’s not the case. The latest dust-up occurred in mid-May after the Anne Arundel County Department of Planning & Zoning asked the consultant hired by Hogan to resubmit a plan it deemed “not acceptable” after its latest review.
Many locals have been fighting the controversial project for three years, with numerous objections including a lack of communication between the developer and the community; poor access off of Route 3 at Crawford Boulevard, which would also require frequent U-turns to facilitate exits on its eastern end at Crofton Parkway; poor access for emergency vehicles; a lack of free space and amenities; and concerns about a wetland that parallels the highway.
There are three decades of history with this story. It began when the Crofton Civic Association gained approval rights in a 1988 agreement with William Berkshire, a Crofton resident who owns the property where various projects have been slated to rise over the years.
In 1988, Berkshire gave up 23 acres of land he owned in the suburb in exchange for development rights to the seven acres in question that front to Route 3. Eventually, a zoning variance permitted him to pursue a residential project on the site.
But the plan is still up in the air.
In a letter to Jeff Smith, principal with Bowman Consulting, Phil Hager, Anne Arundel County Department of Planning & Zoning officer, wrote that the department “is very concerned about the quality of the plans that were submitted for review.
“The comments are extensive for a project that is in the Final Plan stage that has already been reviewed multiple times” and that while new comments may be generated on a revised layout, Hager wrote that it was “not acceptable” to submit an update that did not address previous comments or meet code requirements.
He also added that is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that the plans are “correct, readable and meet all applicable code requirements,” and pointed out that it is not the responsibility of his office “to act as your [quality assurance/quality control] staff.”
The final paragraph started with Hager stating, “Dramatic improvement is expected with your next submittal. Additionally, we require that you provide a project submittal that satisfies all code requirements and is capable of being approved.”
Sighs of Relief
When the letter made the rounds to the citizens of Crofton – many of whom were nervous about the result of the most recent plan submission and had been writing letters of their own to Hager, County Executive Steuart Pittman and others – there was a collective sigh of relief that the plan, while not permanently denied at this juncture, was still not approved.
Among those exhaling was Winnifred Overton, a four-decade-plus Crofton resident who was promptly in touch with Hager after his letter was sent to Bowman. “The Enclave is an inappropriate use of the site for which it is planned,” she said. “Despite the multiple submissions, the developer has never really ‘got it’ that code requirements and quality standards in Anne Arundel County must be met.
“Responsibility for actions requested is always up to the entity requesting the actions,” Overton said. “It is a sign of the times that this tenet is not how many companies choose to conduct business. Anne Arundel County residents, current and future, appreciate that [the office of planning and zoning] continues to hold the companies involved to the established standards.”
Marsha Perry, former delegate from District 33 and long-time Crofton community activist, offered similar, if not more emotional, observations.
“I had, of course, hoped that it would be a permanent ‘do not bother to submit any more such inappropriate, codebreaking, environmentally destructive and visually offensive site plans which still do not properly address structural, public safety, traffic, recreational, public street and walkway problems. This ‘final plan’ is denied for the enumerated many reasons.
“Clearly, planning and zoning is to be thanked for the time spent on this abomination of a submission,” Perry said. “Why would Hogan want his name on such a plan?”
Yet another twist to the story occurred at press time for this issue of The Business Monthly, when Pittman called a press conference at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis to announce two new policies to improve the site development process and better protect wetlands and other natural areas.
And while the recent denial has not ended the saga, some of the locals are becoming more optimistic than they were a month ago that it may finally come to an end in favor of the opposition.
Count Perry among those who share that optimism about what they see as the positive result.
“The new, active young Croftonites joined with many long-time retired residents to write e-mails and letters, attend meetings, voice their opinion on social media and ask the correct questions of those candidates running for public office,” she said.
“The involvement on this issue,” she said, “mirrors the enthusiasm of the early years of Crofton, during which the residents strove to protect and preserve [founder Hamilton] Crawford’s dream of perfection in what was the county’s first planned-unit development.”