This Blog post has been edited, October, 2018, with more detail, due to mischaracterizations of this story, making the rounds, in this election cycle.
I first got involved in civic work around 2010, and not unlike many others, because something was going to happen next door. The Normandy Shopping Center was going to be redeveloped into a mixed use center with a large apartment building in the back. The problem we had was that, although the developer said they would plant a tree buffer adjacent to the new building, they refused to put their "promise" into an enforceable agreement. That made me believe that all the pretty bells and whistles being depicted may not actually come to fruition, and my journey began.
Now, here we are 8 years later, and after many plan iterations, zoning changes, and zoning rule changes with less and less commercial redevelopment, there still is no renovation. They couldn't take "yes" for an answer. Then, a few months ago, they wanted another change. They said they plan to build a nursing home. The Normandy HOA, and I, did not oppose this change. It is a far less intense usage than a high density apartment building which was the desired plan we last knew existed.
With the nursing home usage allowance about to come before the Council, in the Spring of THIS YEAR, 2018, I was offered money, which I DECLINED from the developer, not to oppose something I didn't oppose anyway and neither did my neighbors. The offer of money was not illegal, as I am not a decision-maker on this, but I felt it was not an appropriate resolution, so I TURNED IT DOWN. That is the "solely personal benefit" I had mentioned in a prior blog. Instead, I worked to secure a tree buffer for all my neighbors adjacent to the new building site. The developer agreed to plant those long sought-after trees along all the properties, including mine. I could have taken that money, and planted trees just for me, but I did not do that. The trees are on the developer's property adjacent to ALL the houses that abut the proposed new building site, and that is a fact.
I was concerned about how to protect the trees in the agreement, from ever being removed, as they are being planted on the developer's property, and so they are in a deeded easement that cannot be touched by any future center owner, or even governmental bodies that can change easements. It is not unusual to have developer tree plantings put into an easement.
Recently, the developers of Normandy have started renovating the commercial space, and took down trees closer to Route 40 than the area of the proposed new building. No one can control what they do with their other trees preparing for these renovations. I believe they are likely needing to widen the access road for emergency vehicle access, in anticipation of the new building being built in the back of the center. I wish I could have procured more trees all the way down to 40, but I believe we got the most we could for our neighborhood, after 8 years of them not being willing to do anything at all.
After working hard on many other development issues across the County, for many neighborhoods and communities trying to secure amenities and buffering, it is nice to come full circle on the one next door. As I reflect over these past 8 years, I am grateful that this endeavor got me into the civic work of Howard County. Thus, I would not have had it any other way, and I am thrilled that we finally got our trees, and that these trees cannot go anywhere. It's nice to hear of trees being planted for once, instead of just all of the ones being removed.
If you haven't, you should join The People's Voice, and let us know if we can help you with a developer problem. It took us a long time, but we have larger voices now, and can maybe help get a negotiation going for developer amenities in projects for you too. www.PeoplesVoiceLLC.org membership is free.