More than 400 people showed up at a hearing last night on the proposed rezoning of the eastern county. And the message that most of them delivered to the County Planning Board was: Don't.
"We don't want the ills of urban sprawl in our community. That is why we came to live here," said Deborah Chen of Fulton.
Ms. Chen and much of the crowd came to the hearing in the George Howard county office building in Ellicott City to protest two rezoning proposals.
One is the proposed rezoning of an 820-acre tract in rural Fulton to allow a mix of apartments, houses, shops and businesses, much like Columbia is developed. That proposal has even prompted opposition from the government of neighboring Montgomery County because it could adversely effect traffic on U.S. 29.
The other is a proposal to rezone a 52-acre tract at U.S. 29 and Route 103 to allow for warehouse-sized stores.
Many of the 175 people who signed up to testify last night were organized by growth-control activist John W. Taylor of Highland, who urged that the mixed-use category be scrapped for strictly defined uses. "I haven't heard one average citizen from Howard County that wants these things," Mr. Taylor told the board.
Tom O'Brien of Hunt Country Estates in Ellicott City testified against proposed rezoning that would allow the warehouse-sized stores. He reminded board members of the blight of portions of U.S. 40 in Catonsville after large stores such as Montgomery Ward either moved or went out of business.
"Do we as a community want to lend ourselves to the blight of neighboring counties by trying to attract more commercial businesses to increase the tax base?" Mr. O'Brien asked.
Residents near the U.S. 29 site turned out in force, many of them wearing buttons with a red slash over the word "rezoning" or carrying placards protesting the proposed change from a mix of residential and commercial to general business zoning.
The Planning Board decided to hear half-hour arguments from both sides of the U.S. 29 rezoning sought by developer Robert Moxley at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 24.
Lorri Roth of Ilchester Road in Ellicott City testified against the rezoning plan's proposal to convert her area from half-acre residential lot zoning to a more flexible "environmental" zoning category.
The proposed zoning would allow homes to be clustered around the edges of environmentally sensitive areas such as steep slopes. Opponents have argued that it allows development where it would have otherwise been difficult or impossible.
"The entire eastern part of Howard County need not be intensively developed," Ms. Roth said.
The Planning Board will continue the hearing tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in the George Howard county office building in Ellicott City.
The proposed rezoning plan would also designate four major tracts of a new "mixed-use" zoning category, rezone three Ellicott City office/research tracts for apartment use and allow 682 rural acres in Marriottsville and Woodstock to be developed into a Columbia-style village. The board will make a recommendation to County Council members.