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DENIED! Hickory Ridge Village Center Redevelopment halted by Zoning Board

The Howard County Zoning Board (made up of the 5 members of the Howard County Council) voted 3-2 on December 1 to deny KIMCO's proposal to redevelop the Hickory Ridge Village Center with new retail buildings, a public green, and a 230-unit apartment building with ground floor retail. Councilmembers Deb Jung, Liz Walsh, and David Yungmann voted to deny the petition. Councilmembers Dr. Opel Jones and Christiania Rigby opposed denying the petition.


In April 2021, after nearly two years of testimony and countless hours spent in 16 separate hearings, the Zoning Board temporarily abdicated their responsibility to decide whether or not Kimco's proposed redevelopment of the Hickory Ridge Village Center meets the zoning criteria for approval, and sent the issue to mediation in hopes that a compromise solution could be brokered between Kimco, the Hickory Ridge Community Association, and a group of vocal residents opposed to the redevelopment proposal.


Not surprisingly, mediation failed to reach an amenable solution. Residents opposed to redeveloping the village center have been maneuvering throughout the process to delay this case as long as possible and mediation provided another avenue to continue the opposition's strategy of obstruction and delay. It was revealed during this week's Zoning Board meeting that just a single mediation session took place where it was quickly determined that a meeting of the minds would not be reached. As such, after an 8 month pause, the case went back to the Zoning Board.


Several times during the Zoning Board's deliberations, Chair Christiana Rigby keenly observed how differently observers, including her colleagues on the Council, view Kimco's proposal. Some, myself included, view the proposed mixed-use development favorably, and see how it helps contribute to a walkable more sustainable connected community. Future residents of the apartment building would have a grocery store and retail offerings on site within close proximity to several major employers and Downtown Columbia; while nearby neighbors would benefit by being able to walk or bike to new retailers that increased density helps enable. Opponents of the project bluntly admit that they do not believe that apartments are compatible with the Clemens Crossing neighborhood that is made up exclusively of single-family homes and believe the size and scale of the apartment building would overwhelm other uses of the village center.


One thing that all five councilmembers agreed to is that the proposed village green at the center of the proposed redevelopment could be enhanced. They all agreed that if they were to ultimately approve the proposal (it wasn't approved), that the proposed village green should be made larger by removing an access road to create better pedestrian connections between the retail buildings and require that the public green include room for concerts and gatherings, a stage with electrical, soft-scape elements that provide a safe space for children to play, a community notice board, art installations, and a tree-lined allée evocative of the pedestrian promenade that currently exists. These incredible-sounding improvements made the Board's decision later that night to deny the redevelopment all the more painful and frustrating for me.


From my perspective, the discussion during this week's Zoning Board meeting could not better exemplify the differing perspectives of each councilmember towards growth and development. Rigby and Jones have continuously demonstrated their commitment to diverse, inclusive, welcoming sustainable communities that contain housing opportunities for people of all income levels and backgrounds; whereas Jung, Walsh, and in this instance, Yungmann, have frequently taken the side of existing homeowners opposed to growth due to their fears that it will increase traffic, crime, overcrowd schools, or lower their property value. Towards the end of this week's meeting just prior to the final vote, Rigby explained the importance of integrating a variety of housing options within a neighborhood by stating that "Columbia was created to avoid destructive mindsets and systemic patterns that segregated housing uses." Jung and Yungmann reacted by dismissively laughing off Rigby for using so many buzzwords. 1:37:20 mark. Yep, this is our County Council.


So. what happens next? First, the Zoning Board needs to finalize this decision by drafting and issuing a decision and order. Once this is issued, KIMCO could opt to appeal the zoning board decision, and/or submit a new modified petition for consideration, or wait for a period of at least two years and then resubmit an identical petition. Needless to say, despite this setback, I doubt this is the last we hear of redeveloping the Hickory Ridge Village Center.

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9 commentaires


Steve Cooperstein
Steve Cooperstein
16 déc. 2021

What sort of funding did Kimco offer to enhance the local schools to accommodate the children who would live in this apartment building? Assuming that children who lived there would attend either PRES or CCES, AMS and AHS, would Kimco assist the school district in expanding those schools to add space for those kids? Would they buy HoCo a new fire engine with ladder to protect such an apartment building? I'm impressed to see the County Council actually stand up for once to a developer, since they usually prefer to just let anything and everything be built without regard for the services new housing requires. This isn't like the new senior apartments on Martin Road that won't add a si…

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Sorry that most of the comments here don't get it. HRVC does not need a 4 story monolithic block urban luxury apartment building that overwhelms the commercial space and hides the shopping area from view. A reasonable redesign by Kimco with additional commercial space, half the apartments, moving the commercial space to the corner to be visible, and limiting height to 36 feet as the Village Board wanted would be accepted by most in Hickory Ridge. Kimco just wanted an apartment building that they could sell off to the highest bidder like they did in Wilde Lake. There is more than enough housing to support HRVC with out the grossly out of proportion apartment building proposed by Kimco and…

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The opponents of the development cited a "County report" that said the Hickory Ridge Giant was "one of the highest-grossing Giants in the area." Turns out this is a bogus claim and the report, one on CA's villages that is 7 years old, has lots of numbers but nothing to assert this at all. I no longer trust what the opponents said about Kimco raising rents exorbitantly in order to kick out existing tenants and make the center look abandoned; while it could be true, their veracity is in question.

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Stephen Sternheimer
Stephen Sternheimer
04 déc. 2021

If you want to see kids enjoying a REAL village center, then see them playing in the water feature in Merriweather in summer (bet most HRers havde never seen), playing bean bag toss on artificial turf or croquet, parents siting in beach chairs, ice skating and hot choc stand in winter. This is real, not "a square" where noting happens (HRVC Ampitheatre for years now!). Oh yeah, those homeowners in their 60s and 70s will say this doesn't matter, NIMBY.

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Susan Olney
Susan Olney
03 déc. 2021

Thank goodness this proposal failed. Kimco's still wants to place apartments along Cedar Lane. If they want to put in apartments, put them at the back of the village center, so the sight line isn't blocked. Village Centers are supposed to be primarily retail; Kimco continues to want to expand residential area within the center, which goes against the concept. Thank you, Councilmembers Deb Jung, Liz Walsh, and David Yungmann, for listening to the people who already live in the community.

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