Slow-growth Lobby Seeks Big Turnout On Western Rezoning

Cluster Development, Business Zones At Issue

March 18, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

Community activist John W. Taylor is angling for a large crowd at tomorrow night's Zoning Board hearing on the comprehensive rezoning of western Howard County.

Taylor, president of the slow-growth lobby Howard Countians for Responsible Growth, said his group distributed 2,000 fliers during the weekend, urging residents to attend the hearing.

The fliers were unlike those his group passed around three days before a public meeting last June, Taylor said. The June fliers were credited with producing an angry crowd that practically hooted the Rural Land Use Study Commission off the stage for suggesting clustered housing alternatives to the current one-house-per-three-acre zoning inrural Howard County.

Taylor said he was "not trying to scare up an angry crowd" with the current fliers. "I just want citizens to takepart as much as possible. I want people to know that the (comprehensive rezoning) proposal represents a momentous change.

"This is their future that is going to be decided," he said. "They need to let their representatives know how they feel, pro and con."

Taylor said his fliers were not aimed at converting rural residents to his position.

"I am sure most of them, like me, are satisfied with the status quo and want to keep it. They, too, are suspicious of clustering and concerned about the ground water."

Although Taylor wants the current rural zoning to remain unchanged, he said he's certain the County Council, sitting as the Zoning Board, will accept at least some of what the planning department is proposing.

The department is asking the Zoning Board to divide 49,579 rural acres uncommitted to development into two districts -- rural residential and rural conservation -- to keep new development as close as possible to existing development.

Clustered development would be encouraged on some parcels in the residential district and required on parcels of 20 acres or more in the conservation district.

As an absolute minimum, Taylor said, the county should deduct steep slopes, streams and wetlands from the total acreage before making its clustering calculations. The department proposal calls for deducting those areas after the calculations are made.

Taylor also wants the Zoning Board to eliminate possible use of shared septic systems, make the minimum lot size two acres, and"not be so liberal with floating business zones."

The business zone proposal would allow businesses to be put on parcels that are compatible with surrounding land uses if the parcels meet certain road criteria. What the county should do instead, Taylor said, is restrict business use to specific parcels.

Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director ofthe Planning and Zoning Department, estimates his department will need about 1 1/2 to two hours tomorrow night to present its findings and call witnesses to support the plan. He said some of those witnessesmay endorse parts of the plan without agreeing to the entire proposal.

Comprehensive rezoning is more like a regular County Council hearing than a piecemeal zoning hearing, since witnesses testify without cross-examination. After the planning department has finished, the board will hear from members of the audience. Individuals will be limited to three minutes each. Speakers who represent groups will be limited to five minutes each.

"It is unconscionable to limit people'sspeaking time," Taylor said. "It gives the impression that council members have their minds already made up and want to get out of the hearing."

The hearing will begin at 8 p.m. in the county office building.

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