Planners Okay Pegg Road Low-Income Apartments

Artist's rendering of a unit at Patuxent Cove Apartments.
Artist's rendering of a unit at Patuxent Cove Apartments.

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (January 18, 2018)—The St. Mary's County Planning Commission Jan. 8 gave concept site plan approval to a 60-unit apartment complex on Pegg Road in Lexington Park that includes 60 percent low-income housing, including units for the handicapped.

The project called Patuxent Cove Apartments is on 11 acres, one of the last undeveloped tracts on the major arterial road that connects Chancellor's Run Road and Gate 1 at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

The project approved is the first phase of an ultimate buildout of 98 units. It is a joint venture of Conifer Realty, LLC of Columbia and Community Development Corporation of Lexington Park. According to Conifer's VonneHe Harris, the company has an extensive track record in the Mid-Atlantic area with projects similar to what is being proposed in St. Mary's County.

The project's engineer, Jim Gotsch of the Solt.esz firm, showed a design that will be unique for the area. The threestory apartment buildings (five in the first phase) will have horizontal units on the bottom floors for the handicapped (including veterans), and vertical units comprising the second and third floors, like town houses, with kitchen and living rooms on the second floor and bedrooms on the third floor. All units would have balconies.

The project will also have a community center, tot lot and village green for use of the residents.

The proposal was enthusiastically received by the planning commission members who spoke and was in the end given unanimous approval. Several said it was the right place to locate the workforce housing that was sorely needed in the community.

But the hearing on the project lasted for two and a half hours because of concerns from the planners about a request to lower the number of parking spaces, from the 147 required by the ordinance to 96. The planning director has the authority to approve a lower number.

The project as proposed also requested reduction in green space from 50 percent to 30 percent because of the lot size and the type of units. The developer will either have to purchase off-site easements or make a direct payment to the county to compensate for the difference.

Harris argued that her company's experience in their other projects was that the number called for in the county ordinance was more than necessary and would be unused. She presented figures from other projects showing one to oneand-a half spaces per unit. Proposed is 1.6 spaces per unit.

At first Planning Director Bill Hunt was skeptical, noting that some of the information being presented had been delivered to staff and the planning commission at the 11th hour. But after hearing Gotsch's assurances that what was being proposed would work, he consented to go along with it.

In addition to the proposed 96 parking spaces, the developer proposed to have 14 street parking spaces along the entrance road to the project. Harris said that road would still be wide enough for emergency vehicles even with parking on one side of it. The planners had concerns about that but eventually went along with it as long as the other side was marked for no parking.

During the public hearing portion of the case, two residents, Sheila Delaney and Julie Randall asked questions about the handicapped units, saying there was a dearth of such housing in the county. They praised the developer for including them and asked the planners to expand the idea to other projects.

Community Development Corporation Executive Director Viki Volk also spoke in support of the project. She said Conifer was a great company to partner with.

Before the start of the hearing, the commission voted in Howard Thompson for another year's term as chairman and appointed Joseph VanKirk as vice chair, replacing Shelby Guazzo, whose term expired.

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