P.C. Previews Cobblestone Plans

BLYTHEWOOD – The face of Cobblestone may soon be changing, and members of the Planning Commission, viewing the proposed changes for the first time at a work session Monday night, want to be sure the community has an opportunity for input. But representatives from D.R. Horton, the developer now holding the reins at Cobblestone, told the Commission that at this stage they were only willing to present the plans in a public meeting format, and not to residents individually.

“I think that it would be a little bit irresponsible to just put it out there, if they’re just sitting there in their living room sitting and looking at the document without having someone like us to answer their questions,” D.R. Horton’s Ben Stevens told the Commission after Commission Chairman Malcolm Gordge asked if the developer planned to make the revisions available to residents. “We prefer to do it in a controlled environment where their questions can be answered.”

Stevens said as the project progressed “it would be a good idea” to get input from residents, but not at this stage. That prompted a word of caution from Commissioner Buddy Price as well as a stern rebuke from Bob Mangone, a Town Councilman attending the work session as a Cobblestone resident.

“You’ve got a lot of people who live out there now who really need to be brought along in the process,” Price, also a Cobblestone resident, said, “and it’s a mistake, I think, to present anything that’s really changing the dynamic of the community. Don’t do this in a vacuum. I think it would be irresponsible for us to take a look at something and give some kind of final blessing on it if we haven’t gotten some kind of feedback from the community.”

Mangone said he was concerned that there has been, thus far, no community input into the plans and that, at this point the plans do not, contrary to Horton’s claims otherwise, represent the residents’ vision for Cobblestone.

“When will you come to the great unwashed and uneducated of Cobblestone and allow us some access to your wonder plan?” Mangone asked the Horton group. “I find that very insulting, by the way, that we couldn’t look at a basic plan and not have some way of commenting on it. We’re not all engineers but we’re not all dolts, either.”

But Andrew Allen, the Horton representative who presented the majority of the plan to the Commission Monday, said the purpose of his presentation was to open the plans to the public. Horton was not, at this stage, seeking approval from the Commission, but only presenting a draft plan. A more detailed, final version of the plan will come before the Commission at a later date, he said, and would still need a final OK from Town Council.

Cobblestone operates as a Planned Unit Development (PUD), with customized zoning unique to the neighborhood. Michael Criss, the Town’s Planning and Zoning consultant, said the changes presented Monday night would require an amendment to the existing PUD. That amendment would also have to be approved by the Planning Commission, he said, before going to Council for a final OK. The original PUD for Cobblestone was approved in 2003, and Allen said it was out of date and out of step with what Horton had in mind.

“It is our feeling that PUD no longer represents our vision for the community, the community’s vision for Cobblestone or D.R. Horton’s vision for Cobblestone,” Allen said. “So it is our desire to come up with a new PUD, get that approved, that more closely resembles what everybody’s vision for Cobblestone is.”

The Changes

Allen told the Commission that Horton plans to reduce the number of proposed dwellings at Cobblestone from 1,251 units to 1,100 units, converting some areas that had been slated for multi-family units into single-family unit developments. Near the front of the neighborhood, as well as in the middle, Allen said there were tracts that had been zoned for 24 units per acre and would have included apartments. Instead, he said, Horton plans for town homes at a much lower density of four to 10 units per acre.

“Cobblestone is more of a single-family community and we feel that the new Master Plan needs to reflect that,” Allen said.

The back gate in the Primrose area, Allen said, would be converted into a functioning gate, “to relieve some of the traffic flow for this community so a lot of the residents in the back can use the Syrup Mill Road exit.” Driveways on homes along Primrose Drive, he said, would be removed from exiting onto Primrose and would be placed on an adjacent side street.

“That lets Primrose be kind of the main thoroughfare through the back section and you can drive down that without people backing out onto Primrose,” Allen said.

Horton also plans for additional amenities in the back section of Cobblestone, including a swimming pool and clubhouse, along with a corresponding parking lot. Commissioner Mike Switzer, also a Cobblestone resident, asked if an additional tennis court or fitness center might also be included, especially considering the amount of green space left intact by Horton’s revised plan. But Stevenson said another tennis court or fitness center was not in the works and that the green space, while it appears open and viable on paper, was simply not so.

“It’s a pretty topographically challenged space,” Stevenson said. “That whole section . . . there are a lot of hills and a lot of slope there. To be able to provide a large footprint of an amenity there would be a challenge, for anybody. Not saying that things like that can’t be done, but it might not be the most effective use for that space.”

Allen said Horton hopes to come back to the Planning Commission soon for final approval, as the developer is selling homes in the neighborhood at a swift pace. An exact time frame, however, was not made public.