Howard Co. planner proposes clustering homes in west

October 05, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

Howard County's planning director will propose clustering housing in the rural western portion of the county in a way that would increase density beyond the 1990 General Plan's estimates.

Planning Director Joe Rutter said that his proposal, the first step in the county's comprehensive rezoning process, calls for considering gross, rather than net, area in calculating the number of houses permitted on a parcel in most of the rural area west of Route 108.

As with the 20-year General Plan, Mr. Rutter's proposal would allow a developer to build one house per five acres, with the houses built on one-acre lots clustered on one corner of the property leaving as much as 70 percent of the remaining land open.

But he would apply the 1-to-5 ratio to gross area, rather than subtracting steep slopes and flood plains as the General Plan, the county's blueprint for growth, does.

Mr. Rutter said that the proposal could mean about 400 more houses than the 4,000 to 5,000 new dwellings projected under the General Plan.

The clustering concept, aimed at saving more open space on a property being subdivided, is recommended to replace the current rural zoning that provides for residential subdivisions where the minimum lot size is three acres.

Mr. Rutter said that his proposals, which will be released in two weeks, also would allow the use of one apartment in residences in the rural west to provide affordable housing and allow families to have living quarters for grandparents, older children or hired help.

Another Rutter proposal involves home-based businesses, which currently are limited to 500 square feet and only one employee who does not live at the home. Mr. Rutter recommends allowing such businesses to get zoning exceptions from the Board of Appeals to exceed 500 square feet and have four or five outside employees.

"Such a provision recognizes what is already out there and would acknowledge the emergence of the electronic age, which has brought the fax machine and computers into common use," he said. The proposed change could affect home businesses like that of Peter and Mary Esseff, who applied earlier this year to change the zoning requirement to permit more office space for ** outside employees for their home publishing business in a west Howard County subdivision.

The Esseffs dropped their request amid opposition from area residents and after being told the county would consider the issue during comprehensive rezoning, their attorney, Thomas E. Lloyd, said yesterday.

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