Land use and zoning

A Lay of the Land:

The Harper’s Choice Village Center falls within the Wilde Lake sub-watershed of the larger Upper Middle Patuxent watershed and the even larger Chesapeake Bay watershed. The 1.9 square mile Wilde Lake watershed is approximately 32 percent impervious cover and based on zoning is fully built, most of the construction occurring in the 1970s without consideration for stormwater management. The Harper’s Choice Village Center is a particularly developed portion of this land, with approximately 72 percent impervious cover according to the 2009 Columbia Association Watershed Management Report. These impervious cover levels have a considerable effect on the conditions in the streams in the watershed, which were determined to be in poor condition in recent studies.

The map below illustrates that much of the existing impervious surface in the Village Center is dedicated to grass fields, with a few small and fragmented patches of wooded areas that are not proximal to any of the actively used amenities of the Village Center.

Harper’s Choice Village Center Lay of the Land Map

Village Center Land Use 
The Existing Land Use Map below shows that the lands within the Village Center Study Area comprise a mix of uses. Forty-seven percent (47%) is developed as “institutional uses” such as the Harper’s Choice Middle School and Winter Grown senior care facility, twenty-eight percent (28%) of the land is devoted to recreational purposes or is parkland or open space, fourteen percent (14%) is comprised of retail uses, parking lots comprise three percent (3%) of the lands and high density residential (Fenland Fields) comprises one percent (1%) of the land use.

Harper’s Choice Village Center Land Use Map

Honing in on the red, retail area of the Village Center, the anchor of the Village Center is a 55,000 square foot Safeway Food Store, which can be seen in the top right portion of the red space. In addition, there are 17 other retail/service businesses housed in three buildings owned and operated by Kimco Realty Corporation. Two of these buildings are shown as the larger building right below Safeway on the map, which backs onto a courtyard that serves as a community gathering place. These buildings house a number of retail stores on the lower level including: an ice cream store, a local bank, a coffee shop, a liquor store, a Chinese restaurant, a takeout pizza store, a Mexican restaurant, a sandwich shop, a hair salon, a nail salon and a discount home goods store. There is also a community action center for the Howard County Police located in the first floor of these buildings.  The second floor connects to two buildings, which are separate on the lower level and includes, nine residential loft apartments and a number of businesses, such as a ballet studio and the office of a local homebuilder.  Across the courtyard from this building, is the community center, Kahler Hall, which is shown in green.  The free standing building in red below the Kimco property described above is a drive through fast food restaurant.

Working up from the bottom of the western side of the shopping center is a service station, which has been in continual operation and owned by the same family for over 40 years. Directly above that is a small strip center, owned by Kimco, which includes a national bank, dry cleaner and an Afghani restaurant.  The building in blue at the top of this section of the center is a free standing building that currently houses a consignment store. This is the only land parcel in the study area that is an out parcel and is not subject to the Village convenants or CA annual assessment, according to a 2008 study conducted by a title company upon request of the Village Board.  However, this property still falls under New Town zoning.

In addition to the core shopping center, the Village Center Study Area includes destination uses and services for a wide range of activities. Kahler Hall, a Columbia Association1 (CA) facility, is the community center for Harper’s Choice but also services residents from across Columbia. Kahler Hall hosts meetings, classes and is a rental venue for celebrating many of life’s events. The Columbia Association has three other facilities surrounding the shopping center. There is the SportsPark with batting cages and mini-golf; the SkatePark for skate boarding; and the Athletic Club, one of Columbia’s three indoor gyms, which includes a full range of athletic facilities and a hot water therapy pool. Howard County facilities add to the mix of uses in the study area. County facilities include Harper’s Choice Middle School, the Florence Bain Senior Activity Center; as well as the Ruth Keeton House Wintergrowth, a senior day care program and a 16-bed assisted living facility. The former Cedar Lane School, on the campus with the middle school, has been converted into an activity center. A portion of Cedar Lane Park is also included in the study area and provides playing fields where organized soccer and little league games take place. As shown on the existing zoning map below, all lands within the study area are zoned New Town (NT) zoning. The shopping center and adjacent lands are also designed as a New Town Village Center. 

Village Center Zoning Map

New Town (NT) Village Center is defined in the zoning regulations as a mixed-use development in the New Town District which is in a location designated on the New Town Preliminary Development Plan as a “Village Center”, which is designed to be a community focal point and gathering place for the surrounding village neighborhoods by including the following items:
a. An outdoor, public, village green, plaza or square, which has both hardscape and softscape elements. This public space shall be designed to function as an accessible, primarily pedestrian oriented promenade connecting the various Village Center buildings and shall include public seating features
b. Stores, shops, offices or other commercial uses which provide opportunities to fulfill the day to-day needs of the village residents, such as food stores, specialty stores, service agencies, financial institutions, personal services, medical services, and restaurants;
c. Space for community uses and/or institutional uses; and
d. Residential uses, to the extent appropriate to support and enhance, but not overwhelm, other uses in the Village Center.