SYKESVILLE -- Despite a written recommendation from county planners urging adoption of the town Planning Commission's Small Town Planning Guidelines, the Town Council Monday night deferred action on the issue, pending several changes.
The council reviewed Draft 17 of the guidelines at a public hearing at which several points were questioned, prompting Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. to delay voting until the Aug. 10 meeting.
Town Manager James L. Schumacher wanted changes in three items.
"I'm concerned with the 20 percent maximum on developments of five acres or more," Mr. Schumacher said. "I think it's too much. And with their calculations in some areas, you could have a lot as small as 4,500 square feet. I think 8,000 square feet should be a minimum lot size."
Councilman Walter White agreed, saying that with 55 percent of housing in the town being multifamily dwellings, he would prefer that all single-family homes be built.
He also wondered whether the Planning Commission would be required to approve town houses if the developer requested them.
"My neighbors are telling me they don't want town houses backing up to their yards," Mr. White said. "Can we see to it that any town houses are built in the middle of a [new] development?"
Noting the town's dislike for town houses, Town Attorney Cynthia K. Hitt suggested the council may want to deal with that issue separately in its zoning ordinance.
The guidelines call for allowing the developer additional houses up to a maximum of 15 percent for complying with aesthetic characteristics, such as parking behind the home, detached garages, front porches deeper than 6 feet or the absence of cul-de-sacs.
"I'd like a maximum of 10 percent rather than 15 percent on that," Mr. Schumacher said.
Council President Kenneth Clark voiced concern about the narrow roads the guidelines describe. Proposed road widths vary from 10 feet for a one-way subdivision street with no parking, to 36-foot collector roads with parking on both sides.
"I'd like to see 2 more feet for safety [on the narrower roads]," Mr. Clark said. "If a child is playing along the road, 10 feet leaves you very little room for error. These narrow roads are clearly dangerous."
Councilman and Planning Commission member Jonathan Herman was equally adamant that the planners had taken every precaution to allow for safe roads, designed to slow drivers.
"People with a propensity to speed are going to speed no matter how wide the street is," Mr. Clark insisted. "All I want is an extra foot on each side. It might save the life of a citizen."
Planning Commission member Anita Huddleston agreed with Mr. Clark, noting that in her experience, "road width has nothing to do with speed."
Several residents at the meeting also agreed that the roads should be wider, and one noted his dislike for the proposed town houses.
Developers have the biggest vested interest in the guidelines. Donald Gilmore, attorney for John Serra, developer of Boulder Hill Estates, asked for clarification of a clause in the "grandfathered" properties section.
The proposal allows developments that have been given preliminary plan approval to be exempted from the guidelines. However, town zoning calls for preliminary approval to expire after two years unless an extension is requested.
Dan Staley, engineer for Boulder Hill, said some of the open-space requirements were excessive. He was told that, in future, developers would be required to plan according to the guidelines.