Thursday, February 21, 2013

Now What?

When I first read this story about the HoCo Housing Commission backing off their previously announced plans for the Beechcrest Mobile Home Park in North Laurel, I thought it was in response to community opposition. After conducting my own inspection of the property today I now believe that it is much more than that.

My first reaction while driving through the community was “What were they thinking?”

This is a tough piece of ground with a couple of immediately obvious development obstacles, aside from relocating the current residents.
To begin with, access appears to be problematic. The community shares a narrow access road with an Econo Lodge hotel. I doubt that it meets current standards, much less what would be required if the property were redeveloped with more residential units. As I exited the property this afternoon another SUV entering pulled to the side to let me pass.  In order to fix this the county would likely need to acquire the property next door.

Assuming you could fix the access issue, the next hurdle is topography. The existing mobile homes occupy about half of the five and a half acre site that slopes up about ten feet from Route 1, levels off slightly for about two acres and then drops about 20 feet. In the development business we'd refer to this as challenging.

The commissions site plan shows a "bio-retention" storm water management area that looks to eliminate about half of the existing trees. I'm not sure how that works.

Then there are the existing mobile homes. Many of them look barely inhabitable and I'd be surprised if any of the units meet current minimum standards for county owned housing. Now they are the county housing authority’s responsibility so even if the property isn't redeveloped, the commission will likely have to do something to improve conditions for the current residents.

What a mess.
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