SYKESVILLE — The Planning and Zoning Commission voted Monday night to place a 30-day freeze on development reviews to give the panel time to establishsmall-town planning guidelines.
"The guidelines, which would offer alternative design plans for developments, include roads, building setbacks, open spaces, density, affordable housing and commercial site planning," said James L. Schumacher, Sykesville's town manager and director of planning.
The commission will conduct a special public session 7 p.m. Jan. 6 to hear comments on the proposed guidelines.
If guidelines are not approved Jan. 6, the commission is expected to defer development review for up to 120 days in order to complete them.
Commission members said that guidelines would let developers know exactly what the town wants in certain areas and enable them to plan accordingly.
Schumacher said the guidelines:
* Could be enacted as law by the Town Council, meaning the developer would have to redesign development if needed at additional engineering cost.
* Or could be voluntary,with greater housing density allowed as a bonus if the developer complies.
Developments that would be affected directly by the waitingperiod include the last 14 lots of Carroll Fields, two sections of Hawk Ridge Farms and 98 lots of Shannon Run.
Any new proposals would not be affected by a 120-day waiting period because additional sewer taps from the Freedom-Sykesville Sewer Treatment Plant will not be available until August, said Helen M. Spinelli-Taillie, county planner.
A moratorium on sewer hookups has been in effect for two years while the plant's capacity is being expanded from 1.8 million gallonsa day to 3.6 million gallons a day, she said.
Town officials havebeen looking recently at development design alternatives that allow such things as cluster building, more open spaces and narrower streets to reduce speeding in residential areas.
"We have R-10,000 (fourhouses per acre) and R-20,000 (two houses per acre) zoning in town, but we're allowed to cluster in any zoning district," Schumacher said.
Town officials also are concerned about adequate facilities, including water and sewer hookups and town roadways that enable safe, efficient passage.
Commission members say better roads are needed tohandle increasing traffic, but some say the wider roads encourage dangerous speeds in residential areas.
"You can have as little as 18feet with parking on both sides, make it one way, and garbage trucksand fire trucks can still get through," said commission member Jonathan Herman.
Commission member Vincent DiGiovanni, who lives on Jennifer Way, a wide residential street, agreed that roads could be narrowed.