At 6.9 acres, the land that lies immediately south of Crofton’s iron and brick front gate isn’t a swath that draws much attention. Many residents and passersby probably considered it part of a welcoming expanse that lies across its main entry point, Crawford Boulevard, from Lake Louise.
However, the land is owned by area developer and Crofton resident Bill Berkshire, and has been for decades. While this may be news to relative newbies of the 51-year-old suburb, old-time Croftonians — those who remember Widow Brown’s, George’s convenience store and those colorful hand-painted fire hydrants — remember him well.
It was Berkshire who initially proposed building a full-service hotel and conference center about three decades ago on the site, which is zoned C-3 and permits such a project (though none of the hotel companies expressed interest); however, that didn’t prevent many of the locals from protesting that idea, sometimes at high volume.
Eventually, a deal was struck between Berkshire and the Crofton Civic Association (CCA) in 1988 that called for Berkshire to give up his option to develop Crofton’s golf course property in exchange for dropping the hotel concept and agreeing to work with the CCA to contemplate a project that would be better received by the locals, when the time came.
That time may finally arrive with a plan for an 111-unit residential project from a division of the Annapolis-based Hogan Cos., one that might even rejuvenate another iconic presence of old Crofton, the Village Green.
During his earlier days in town, Berkshire, long-time Croftonians might recall, would have rather fought than switched — at different times, he planted corn and tobacco crops at the foot of the Crofton Country Club parking lot, which faces Crofton Parkway by the main gate — to demonstrate the possible multiple uses of the property.
The Berkshire of today, however, apparently wants to collaborate with the community, rather than raise a cain or two.
“He is mindful of the relationship between himself and the community, and he understands that there are people who are not crazy about [the new project],” said Steve Grimaud, president of the CCA, “but he and Hogan want to work with our board and ensure that an appropriate project is built in that spot.”
The property is being purchased (for an undisclosed sum) by Hogan subsidiary Diamondback Investments, and Diamondback, as well as Berkshire (who did not call after a request for an interview for this article) have been in touch with the CCA board “several times during the past 18 months,” Grimaud said.
“We had meetings in January and February of this year, then again in April, where their group showed some conceptual design sketches, including one of a residential project with 111 homes (104 condos, with seven townhouses by the top of the hill). It would attract 220 cars per day (as opposed to 400–700 for a mixed-use/commercial project), according to a traffic engineering consultant,” he said.
“It’s [Berkshire’s] property and, as long as he complies with the laws and the rules, he should have a right to build what he can” within the rules of the architectural review committee, said Grimaud. “There are people here who are not thrilled about that, but it’s his right, and I think he’s gone about his business in a professional way.”
Next on Hogan’s agenda is to present plans regarding road access and infrastructure to county planning and zoning. “Then,” he said, “I presume they’ll get back to us.”
Jake Ermer is a consultant who is working on the project for Diamondback, and he pointed out that the signs to alert the community to the project “have been up since August.
“Community feedback from the CCA indicated that it didn’t want the hotel/conference center or any commercial development that would be permitted under C-3 zoning,” said Ermer. “However, the Anne Arundel County Office of Planning and Zoning, the CCA and Berkshire all agreed that residential would work well on that site, even though it normally doesn’t work under the C-3 zoning.”
However, the adoption of a variance made it possible to pursue building an all-residential project.
“Had there not been a variance issued, we would have had to offset the commercial with residential, which we didn’t want to do,” he said, “since we wanted to work with the community.”
Diamondback has “presented some architectural examples at previous meetings,” Ermer said. “We want walkable amenities, so connectivity with the surrounding community and the Village Green is the goal. We’re excited about the project.”
‘Next to No Warning’
Ermer, who also noted that Hogan has been “working with the community and has had a couple of meetings with the CCA, as well,” said the next meeting has not been scheduled yet.
However, some of the long-time locals are feeling a little left in the dark.
“If Hogan has any conceptual plans, I haven’t seen them yet,” said Bob Duckworth, an independent architectural review board member and decades-long presence on the local civic scene. “There is going to need to be considerable discussion about how Hogan plans to build residential on that property, while creating proper access” off of often-congested Route 3 and on to “a very tight turn” that would be required on the quarter-mile long Crawford Boulevard into the new community.
“We want to be sure that whatever is put in our front yard fits our front yard,” he said. “There is a process with the community, then with the county.”
In noting that any plans have to come through the architectural review committee for comment, Duckworth said that, “Something like the townhome community next to the Crofton Centre [Cedar Grove] might be appropriate.”
Marsha Perry, a former delegate who has been a nearly 50-year presence in the community, said that the site “is very small for that kind of residential development,” due to ingress and egress questions. She’s concerned about access for emergency vehicles, for instance.
Like Duckworth, Perry feels that the communication between Hogan and the community has been subpar.
“The most recent meeting happened with next to no warning,” she said. “It would be so much better for the community if we could all talk about this before this project gets too far down the road.”
Let’s Make a Deal
One topic of any discussion would include making the new community a senior development. “There would be no car issues, there would be no impact on schools, and access to the Village Green would perk it up,” Perry said, adding that another senior project [from a different company] is slated to rise on the other side of Route 3.
“Even with [nearby new residential development] Two Rivers, many community meetings were held and compromises were reached,” she said. “So much stuff is up in the air right now, and no one seems to have answers.”
Still, Perry and Duckworth believe that a compromise will be struck.
“Hopefully, the project will be a win-win for all concerned,” said Duckworth. “I’m positive about it. [Hogan] needs to know that the community is going to work with them. We just want it to add to Crofton’s charm, not take away from it.”