Council delays vote on subdivision regulations More discussion needed on rewrite

November 25, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The County Council agrees with residents and developers that there should be more discussion of the planning department's rewrite of the county subdivision regulations.

"I would like to be one small voice speaking for the general public and request relief from being overwhelmed by planning and zoning regulation proposals," said William Waff, president of the Savage Community Association.

"Something is wrong when government is too pressed for time to involve the citizens for whom they work," he said. "I would like to see some alternative procedures adopted when major planning changes are proposed."

Council Chairman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, said Monday night that the council would table legislation adopting the new regulations until after the council holds a work session on them Dec. 10.

The earliest the council could vote on the proposals would be Jan. 4.

Mr. Waff had wanted the planning department to air its subdivision rewrite with civic groups before bringing the proposal to the council. That was the procedure the planning used when sharing its concept for the comprehensive rezoning of the western portion of the county.

Homebuilders' spokesman Joe Perry joined Mr. Waff in asking the council to take more time to examine and test the subdivision proposals before enacting them.

The subdivision regulation amendments were included among other bills discussed in a public hearing. Because they were last on the agenda, Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of the Department of Planning and Zoning, could not begin her 20-minute slide presentation until 10 p.m.

The three main areas of revision, Ms. McLaughlin said, are protection of historic structures and burial grounds, redefinition of open space to require more recreational space and additional environmental protection, and greater use of landscaping to create a buffer between different types of development.

That is entirely too much revision for the Howard County Chapter of the Home Builders Association of Maryland, Mr. Perry said.

"The net result of the regulations . . . will be to increase the cost of housing," he said.

Specifically, Mr. Perry objected to a requirement that open space be essentially usable and flat because that "is exactly where most homes are normerly built."

Mr. Perry said the county could reduce its proposed open space requirement by 12.5 percent and still have enough room in a 10-acre town house development for two tennis courts, a swimming pool, a badminton court and a tot lot, and have 5,000 square feet left over.

Mr. Waff objected that the proposed open space regulations allow too much recreational use and permit open space to be used as a site for public buildings. "We need a definition for land other than parkland which is preserved and not built upon," he said.

Carol Filipczak, president of the Howard County Citizens' Association, said her organization agrees that open space should not be used for construction of public buildings.

Indoor space used as an atrium or retail mall should not be allowed as open space either, she said.

"We favor the clarification of the open space requirement to provide for recreational space as well as environmental protection," she said. "We endorse the recognition of historic resources and the guidelines for their treatment."

Mr. Perry said he was concerned that every 50-year-old house or barn could become a historic site. The regulations could create major problems, he said, if a subdivision were forced to make an old barn the centerpiece of a development.

"Regulations should be created to improve the quality of living in Howard County -- they should not create a reduction in density," he said.

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