County commissioners on Tuesday stripped an age restriction from an 855-home project south of the city of Frederick.
At an evening meeting, officials also cut back the number of homes planned for the Ballenger Run development. The project was previously approved for 970 dwellings, all of which had been set aside for residents 55 and older. Though Frederick County commissioners decided to remove the age minimum, the property owners are reserving 200 of the dwelling units for a continuing care retirement community, according to the plans.
The roughly 130-acre project sits along Ballenger Creek Pike directly across from Tuscarora High School.
Since Ballenger Creek Elementary and Ballenger Creek Middle schools are also near the planned development, project representatives said it makes sense to open the housing to all ages.
"Everyone in this project is within walking distance of a school ... even if no new school is constructed. It's absolutely the perfect site for an all-age project," said Bruce Dean, an attorney who spoke on behalf of the property owners.
Commissioner David Gray questioned county staff about the number of students the proposed homes could introduce to surrounding schools.
County reports show the project would generate an estimated 276 students and that it fails school-capacity tests at the elementary and high school levels.
Gray also expressed concern about the additional cars that the new development would put on Ballenger Creek Pike, especially during the time of day that traffic is streaming into Tuscarora High.
Project representatives said that they are paying about $10 million to the county for the impact their development will bring to local schools. They are also providing a 13-acre school site.
Dean also said property owners have agreed to contribute more than $5 million toward off-site road improvements and will give the county 34 acres of parkland along Ballenger Creek.
Commissioner Paul Smith said he approves of the project plans.
"I don't know that there could be a more perfect place for a development," he said, noting that no one had spoken in opposition to the project. "This one does make eminent sense."
Four commissioners voted to approve the changes to the development plan, while Gray opposed them.
County officials Tuesday also sealed a development rights and responsibilities agreement for the Ballenger Run project. The 20-year agreement sets in stone certain zoning approvals and local laws that apply to the project. In return, the property owners, RBG Family LLC, agreed to widen Ballenger Creek Pike, build trails along Ballenger Creek and Pike Branch, and contribute to water and sewer improvements.
Gray was the only commissioner to vote against approving the agreement and accompanying letter of understanding with RBG Family.
Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.