Taylor Rejects Development Sought By Land-use Panel

Report Favoring Clusters Is 'Flawed,' He Says

September 22, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

Community activist John W. Taylor has urged civic leaders and government officials not to use the Rural Residential Land Use Study Commission's report as a policy-making document.

The commission will present its report to the County Council, County Executive Charles I. Ecker, and the planning board at 7 p.m. Oct. 2.

The 40-page report favors clustered development in the rural western portion of the county and the creation of small hamlets there of six to 50 homes.

Taylor, who is president of Howard Countians for Responsible Growth, attacked the commission report as lacking in-depth research and analysis.

The report is flawed, he said, because the commission was "given a conclusion . . . rather than a mandate to objectively explore and consider the pros and cons of all alternatives" for rural zoning.

The alternative Taylor had hoped the commission would recommend was the rural zoning now used by the county -- one house per three acres.

By keeping the current zoning and intensifying its purchase of property easements for its agricultural land-preservation program,the county could realize "tremendous savings" in thelong run, Taylor said.

Those savings would come as a result of not having to supply services that more intense development would demand, Taylor said. He urged the county to conduct a "comprehensive fiscal analysis" comparing the costs of services needed for cluster zoningwith 3-acre zoning.

Taylor has been critical of the seven-member commission since it began its work in February. He helped organize a protest against the commission's preliminary findings at a public hearing June 5 at Glenelg High.

Three days before the hearing, Taylor's lobby distributed anti-cluster fliers to 1,800 western county households, suggesting that septic fields were needed by villages and that clustered housing developments could contaminate ground water.

Taylor repeated the charges in the 17-page review of the commission report he sent civic and government leaders Sept. 10.

Taylor warned the county not to consider using shared septic systems in hamlets or cluster developments because not enough is known about them.

If the county decides to go forward with cluster zoning, Taylor said, thenclustering should only apply to parcels 50 acres and larger. The commission recommended that it apply to parcels of 20 acres or more.

Commission chairman Theodore Mariani said of Taylor's review: "He hasa point of view, and the commission didn't see it his way."

"I don't think all the returns are in yet," Mariani said. "When they are, the council will have heard from everyone and have a vision of how the county might proceed."

Among those who feel they haven't been heard yet is a coalition of five groups: the Audubon Society of CentralMaryland, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Howard County Citizens'Association, the League of Women Voters of Howard County, and the Sierra Club Howard County Group.

The coalition is planning a two-hour pro-clustering seminar Sept. 28 at Glenelg High School. According to spokesman Brian O'Day, the seminar will "present a favorable picture of clustering" and point up the "inadequacy of 3-acre zoning in preserving the rural character of the west."

To bolster that view, the coalition has invited Randall Arendt, vice president for conservation projects of the Natural Land Trust, to give a presentation demonstrating that cluster development in combination with stringent zoning preserves "green space," while large-lot zoning encourages development.

League of Women Voters President Anita Iribe said the seminar is not an endorsement of the land-use commission's report. It is intended to provide a background for testimony before the council and to show people what they can expect from clustering, she said.

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