The Canadian-based Stronach Group, owner of the Laurel Park thoroughbred racetrack, is moving ahead with plans to develop Laurel Park Station, a 64-acre Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project in North Laurel.

It’s been 11 years since the land, currently a dirt parking lot, has been rezoned to accommodate the project.

According to Aaron Greenfield, an attorney for Laurel Park, the Stronach Group has taken that time to systematically work through a number of environmental issues with Howard County, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Maryland to secure environmental permits and is now prepared to begin the first phase of development.

“This will be an eight- to 10-year plan that will incorporate residential housing in four phases, in addition to other uses,” Greenfield said.

When complete, Laurel Park Station will deliver 1,000 residential units in a mixture of townhouses, condominiums and apartments, along with 650,000 square feet of office space and 127,000 feet of retail space.

“Transit is an important component of this project, based on parking and transit demand studies that show a significant demand on the Camden Line” of the MARC transit system, Greenfield said, adding that infrastructure work to prepare for the first phase could begin as early as this fall.

Raj Kudchadkar, deputy director of the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning, said the project will incorporate a 15% Moderate Income Housing Unit requirement, “but the developer will be working with the Housing Department to iron out when and in what amounts it will be added.”

Competing Project

Plans for Laurel Park Station include a request to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to develop the flag stop at Laurel Park into a full-service stop.

Since hearing of those plans, Laurel city officials and residents have expressed concern that they could lose their historic Laurel Park Station on the same line because the two stations will be located only 2,500 feet apart.

Kudchadkar, however, said he has participated in MDOT discussions with the stakeholders, which include the City of Laurel, as well as Anne Arundel, Prince George’s and Howard counties, characterizing them as collaborative and devoid of any lobbying to close Laurel Station.

Among the options for MDOT are continuing operations with Laurel Park as a flag stop, operating both stations as full-service stations, staggering stops between the stations, or closing one in favor of the other.

Howard County, meanwhile, is considering ways to increase connectivity between the two stops through bike and pedestrian pathways.

Warfield Proceeds

Despite a holdup in financing triggered by an appeal from the owner of an Exxon gas station on Little Patuxent Parkway, developer Howard Hughes Corp.’s (HHC) mixed-used development project in Columbia’s Warfield neighborhood was given the green light for construction by the county Planning Board in August.

At issue was the alignment of a stretch of pathway between Blandair Park and Howard County General Hospital, one of the public amenities agreed to between HHC and the county in a list of Community Enhancements, Programs and Public Amenities (CEPPA) to guarantee the project’s acceptance.

Ryan Daggle, owner of the service station, expressed concern that building part of the bike path through the deceleration lane into his business would pose a safety risk.

Following denial of his appeal by the Hearing Examiner, Daggle is scheduled to appear before the Board of Appeals in October.

Plans submitted by HHC to the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) call for two buildings on Mall Ring Road. The project will include 437 apartment units and nearly 30,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.

Route 1 Road Diet

Following up on a 2012 DPZ study that reached out to business and property owners along Route 1 in southern Howard County, a new State Highway Administration (SHA) study was begun earlier this year on the feasibility of removing one lane of traffic in each direction between Davis Avenue and the Prince George’s County line.

According to the DPZ web site, pedestrian safety is impaired in this stretch of highway due to a lack of sidewalks, and the department has also received requests from constituents and bicycle advocates to improve safety and add bikeways in the area.

One option being considered by the county would be to replace one northbound and one southbound travel lane with sidewalks and bike lanes, reducing the number of vehicle lanes and acceleration/deceleration lanes from four to three in each direction.

“It will take some time before a decision can be made on this project,” said David Cookson, the county’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner. “We’re waiting to hear the results of the SHA study.”

The SHA is expected to complete the study sometime in November.