County planners may soon require residential developers to set asidelarge parcels, instead of numerous smaller ones, to ensure adequate space for parks in new communities.
County Planning Director Ardath Cade said yesterday she hopes to have proposed regulations tightening requirements for developers submitted to County Executive Robert R. Neall soon after County Council budget hearings are completed next month.
The proposed changes will spell out how much land developers of large parcels would be required to set aside as either pastoral open space or for recreational uses, Cade said.
The requirement was proposed in February by former Recreation and Parks Director Joseph McCann, who said county land use codes now allow developers of large tracts to set aside only small, separate parcels for recreation that are inadequate for use as ball fields and basketball courts, for example.
The problem is most severe in western Anne Arundel, where rapid development has county officials scrambling to find land for parks.
The county is considering using federal lands at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center as a park jointly operated by the county and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Jack Keene, chief of planning and construction for the Department of Recreation and Parks.
Keene said the department is putting together a master plan for a 500- to 600-acre park that would have "active and passive uses" on the federally owned land. It will be presented to the Wildlife Service in 45 to 60 days, he said.
McCann told the planning advisory board Feb. 20 that future parkland shortages could be avoided if developers were required to set aside 20 percent of their acreage for recreational uses, with the land set aside being contiguous.
Cade said yesterday that planners in her office are drafting changes along those lines, but that it is too early to say what specific requirements may be proposed.
Cade said it is difficult to come up with iron-clad rules becauseeach development site has a different potential for parks and open space.
"You might not need a ball field in every development," she said. "You have to weigh and balance what school facilities are nearby that might offer those kinds of amenities, and whether a neighborhood might be better-suited for a tot lot."
Developers say that sucha requirement would have to be carefully crafted, and that it might drive up the cost of housing because it would mean less space for houses on the market.
"If you take part of the buildable parcel out, that means less left to work with to get a return on investment," said Robert Strott of the KMS Group, a local development firm. "It's gotto be looked at fairly and reasonably. You just don't take a big chunk out of (a development site) and say, 'Let's do it this way.' "
Large housing developments fall into two categories in county zoning codes, subdivisions and planned unit developments, which must be at least 20 acres.
County codes require 40 percent of the total site of a planned unit development to be open space. Subdivisions must have1,000 square feet of recreation space for each housing unit, said Kevin Dooley, a county zoning analyst.
But he acknowledged that in many cases, open spaces set aside in either type of development can bescattered among smaller parcels throughout the property.