SYKESVILLE — County planners gave the Town Planning and Zoning Commission some ideas last week on how to regulate growth and development while keepingthe small-town character and style.
At the commission's request, K. Marlene Conaway, assistant director of planning; Gregg Horner, comprehensive planner; and Anne L. Poissant, town development review assistant from the Bureau of Development Review, presented an overview Wednesday night of the county planning, zoning and development review processes.
Commission chairman Dennis Karr told the county representatives his panel wants to work up a set of small-town guidelines for developers that would set forth specific standards for future building in thetown.
Town planners have suggested making streets narrower and permitting cluster housing with smaller front yards, which would leave more open space for the community.
County planners told Karr that developers and residents might balk at new ideas but that in the end,both the town and developers would benefit from improved methods.
"What is unique to Sykesville?" Conaway asked the town planners. "What makes the town unique? You need to look at your town and see the elements that make it a community."
Conaway said the county is developing according to a master plan formed in 1964, with changes made along the way for such things as conservation, agriculture preservation and town bypasses.
"The idea was to concentrate growth around existing communities," she said. "It was later modified to add the conservation district to protect the watersheds, and the agricultural area was rezoned."
When the agricultural zoning pushed more people toward the towns, the county implemented an agreement with the municipalities to help them with problems associated with growth, she said.
"The county recognized that it was expensive for the towns to provide roads, police and other services, so a formula was set up to provide the towns with money, depending on their growth," she said.
Thecounty also recognized the need to work closely with the towns, Conaway said.
Toward that end, the county provides each town with a planner who attends municipal meetings and offers advice and suggestions.
One way to prevent loss of identity is through the town planning commissions, which were established in 1970 by Article 66B of the Annotated Code of Maryland, Horner said.
"Article 66B sets up the citizens commission in a jurisdiction to take planning out of the political process," Horner said. "It's function is to make an approved plan to serve as a guide for action for all public and private lands.
"It is a vision of what the town's plan should be."
The planningcommission's policies must be in writing and consistent to be enforceable.
If planners see something wrong with a regulation, it is upto them to correct it, even if it means going to the Town Council for a change in an ordinance, he said.
"The return to the community is greater, to do things differently," Horner said. "And the developer does get benefits.
"If the development is well-designed, it's going to maintain its value."