Growth control provision works for 1st time Compromise OK'd in Woodlot plan COUNTYWIDE

October 30, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

It took nearly four years, but a mechanism to control development worked for the first time with the Zoning Board's granting of a site-plan rezoning petition last night.

County Council members, sitting as the Zoning Board, voted unanimously for the site plan and to rezone a heavily wooded, 66 acres in the middle of the Harper's Choice village in Columbia. The decision will allow quarter-acre residential lots and townhouses on property now zoned for three-acre residential lots.

Unlike other site-plan cases, the developer, Woodlot Enterprises Inc., and neighboring residents who opposed the rezoning, were able to sit down and work out their differences.

In previous site-plan cases where neighboring communities organized against the rezoning, developers and residents have tended to take an all-or-nothing stance.

Most recently, opponents of Wal-Mart's plans for two warehouse-sized stores at U.S. 40 and U.S. 29 dragged out hearings for 10 days with exhaustive cross-examination, eventually defeating the rezoning in July.

Warring parties in the 682-acre Waverly Woods II rezoning case in Marriottsville and Woodstock, were asked why the two sides could not negotiate like those in the Woodlot case. The Waverly opponents and proponents met over muffins Oct. 1, but they failed to reach any agreement.

The Woodlot decision pleased Jim Johnson, coordinator of Citizens for Preserving the Harper's Choice Woodlands, which seven months ago was "deeply opposed" to the original rezoning plan.

The County Council created the site-plan rezoning process in 1988 as a way of giving the board more control over development on rezoned property. Ordinary rezoning is controlled only by zoning regulations while under site-plan rezoning, the Zoning Board can bind a developer to do such things as add screening or change the road layout to satisfy neighbors.

Mr. Johnson's group, made up mostly of residents of the Hobbit's Glen and Swansfield neighborhoods, feared the project would damage a prime migratory bird forest, and that one entrance, at Harvest Scene Road, would result in significant traffic noise and danger to children in Swansfield.

But the two sides reached agreements a month ago to change the site plan to preserve the property's stream valley for birds and other wildlife and make Harvest Scene Road a cul-de-sac.

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