Villas at Laurel Update

At a gathering of South Laurel Community Leaders at the Montpelier Arts Center on Dec 19 with the developer of the planned town house community Villas at Laurel, Mr. Kareem Abdus- Salaam, presented two new alternative plans which supersede all earlier plans.

There was frank and cordial discussion (described below) between the developer and the association leaders present on many still unresolved issues, and no commitments were made by the developer:

The two different schemes presented reflect primarily ongoing negotiations with WMATA, the state and the county about the placement of the bus lot, for purposes of convenient and safe ingress and egress by buses.

Scheme 1

Scheme 2

Both plans have 90 bus lot parking spaces

Scheme 1 will be changed to include a North Exit for residents and buses. That may reduce TH density a little.

Both new plans have now increased to 96 Town Houses

More TH Density: That is 11 more THs than the previous plan of 85.
No Rationale: The developer gave no rationale for this increase in THs & Density Claims Exception: The developer said that his "Transit Oriented Development" (TOD) "luxury townhouse" project allows him to have higher density than a regular Town House community plan (Euclidean?).

Still More Green Space Needed: The developer said that the District 1 County Councilman wants to see still more more green space in the Villas at Laurel plan -- which would consequentially reduce the number of town houses and density.

Scheme 1 has a neo-traditional park

The developer was asked to look at putting social focus centers of green space (picnic areas, etc) in several pockets distributed throughout the Villas. He was referred to an early but still representative conceptual plan (click to enlarge browser image) of the recently approved Montpelier Hills TH completion project.

Adequate Public Facilities for Schools -- The developer said that the county (and MNCPPC) rules calculating the number of public school students to be generated by Villas at Laurel -- for purposes of determining the
Adequate Public Facilities for Schools fee he will have to pay -- are not appropriate for his Transit Oriented Development (implying that the total APF fees the developer would have to pay the schools would be lower than a regular TH development) .

Schools are already over capacity: There ensued a lively discussion about this point between the developer and newly elected District 1 School Board representative Rosalind Johnson (present representing Applewalk HoA

Technical Amenities for Near-by Schools
A/V & Computers: The developer has met with the principals of the four nearby public schools (Oaklands ES, Deerfield Run ES, Montpelier ES and Eisenhower MS) and is discussing how best to donate and distribute technical amenities such as computers and networks, Audio-Visual systems, etc.

The Community Center in Villas at Laurel - status unclear -- issues remain

  • Will there really be a Community Center? How firm is this amenity in the plan?
  • Will it be publicly accessible (such as Seniors at adjacent Park View) or only for Villas at Laurel residents? Where? When asked where the community center was on the plans, the developer pointed generally to the area in the lower center of Scheme 1 where there are two buildings that don't look like town houses.
  • Who pays? The developer said that Parks ("Sam Parker" = MNCPPC?) would "maintain and operate public recreational and educational programs at the Community Center -- but nothing is firm yet.
  • Villas at Laurel Residents to Pay: The developer said that costs for Community Center maintenance, operation and insurance, etc. would be paid by Villas at Laurel residents through their association fees.
  • Technical Amenities at Community Center? Unlike the developer's offer of computers etc for the schools, there has been no discussion of such technical amenities for the possible Community Center (a computer center for checking email, web research, etc?) which would be particularly useful since there is no public library in South Laurel.
  • A Library Annex? The was no discussion of the Community Center serving as a P.G. County Library Annex, since South Laurel has no public library
Traffic Light - Promised
The developer seems confident that the county and state support his proposed traffic light at Briarcroft Lane and also his proposed intelligent signaling for pedestrian crossing (seconds to go display, etc). The new traffic light is to be synchronized with lights to the south up to Cherry Lane.

The developer said that this traffic light at Briarcroft lane would actually expedite traffic up and down Rt 197 and in and out of Briarcroft Lane (from the west in/out of the Briarwood community and from the east in/out of Park View and the Church. There was some question about that -- which may or may not be adequately addressed in the county's formal traffic required later in the formal approval process after formal site plan submission --- unless citizens participate vigilantly in that study.

Sidewalk - 8-foot wide - Promised
The developer promised an 8-foot wide sidewalk along the east side of Rt 197 along the Villas at Laurel property. He said he is telling State Highway Commission that they do not need to complete their narrower sidewalk in that area because of his plans.

No Pool
A pool was deemed to be too expensive for a small community to pay for.

No Tot Lots
Rationale Unclear: The developer could not yet describe the predominant demographic for buyers of these town houses -- (Dual Income No Kids (DINKs)?. Young families?) He said he wasn't seeking senior buyers (no kids) because of so many other nearby Senior Living communities.

What Children's Recreation? There are no recreational facilities at all, much less for kids. Recreational facilities would increase open space and reduce TH density.

Homeowners Association or Condominium Association? -- Issue not Discussed.
In meetings with the developer to date, the issue has not come up whether the town houses would be owned as fee-simple homes (in a Homeowners Association) or as condominium units (in a Condominium Association) -- so any issues related to such differences have also not been discussed.

Prices & Features:
No elevations (TH exterior designs) are available yet
$450-$500K, 2300 square feet, 3-level, Rear 2-car garage, 4 to 5 Bedrooms

Buy-Down: Developer said that the PG Redevelopment authority may agree to buy-down the selling price of 10% of the units by 25-50% to create "affordable housing". Discussion suggested that Villas at Laurel may or may not qualify for redevelopment funds -- and if so, PG Redevelopment may not buy-down 25-50% for 10% of the units

TH & Guest Parking - no public visitor parking in all of Villas at Laurel. The current plans have a 2-car garage and 4 more parking spaces in each private driveway -- but no other guest/visitor parking spaces. In other words, the only parking in the plan is on private property -- so if you have more than 4 visitors -- there is no place for them park. The developer suggested visitors could use the bus lot -- but it was pointed out that the buses run at night so bus lot spaces are not always going to be available and that only helps a little for THs on the east end of Villas, and is not a very safe option at night in any case. The developer referred to the county's low parking requirements for TH parking (Euclidian?) -- It was pointed out that the current lack of real visitor parking did not constitute "luxury townhouses". The developer promised to redo visitor parking some where other than just private property. That may reduce the TH density.

Green Development
When asked, the developer mentioned only generally some environmentally friendly features of his other developments but did not say anything specific about "green" features and options for Villas at Laurel -- such as whether roof-top solar panels would be offered.