Hayden pursuing more housing for younger families Plan would speed process for builders of affordable units

December 09, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Worried about an aging population and declining revenue, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden wants to speed up the development process for builders of affordable homes attractive to young families that now move to neighboring counties.

Mr. Hayden has unveiled a plan that would add affordable housing to a fast-track development proposal originally conceived to speed special commercial developments to approval in as little as 90 days. The executive said he would submit a bill detailing his proposals to the County Council within a month.

Mr. Hayden told the council yesterday that he's worried about demographic changes in the county since 1980 that show young couples leaving for Harford and Carroll counties and southern Pennsylvania, where they can buy detached homes for less money. "Once they leave, and their kids start growing up, they aren't coming back," he said.

As a result, Baltimore County's population is aging, with a steadily lower median income than surrounding counties.

While the population's ability to produce tax revenue is going down as it urbanizes, its demand for services is going up, the executive said.

Mr. Hayden and Administrative Officer Merreen E. Kelly said they want more single-family, detached homes in the $110,000 to $150,000 range. Much of the county's housing stock in that price range is in town homes that aren't as attractive to couples with children.

The proposal has the support of homebuilders, according to Steven R. Smith, who just finished a term as president of the county chapter of the Homebuilders Association of Maryland. "We see this as a positive move," he said, but he cautioned that he's not sure how many new, affordable homes the change in the law would actually produce.

But Catonsville Councilwoman Berchie Lee Manley, R-1st, said she is opposed to the whole fast-track idea, both for commercial and residential developments.

She noted that the county just this year reformed its overall development review process and reduced the average time required for approval from 18 months to a range of six to nine months. Mr. Hayden's new proposal, which originally was aimed at commercial and industrial development only, would reduce the time to as little as 90 days.

"You're eliminating the hearing officer [for approval of developments], and now it's being expanded," she said. "Why bother having development regulations?"

Mrs. Manley has said she is worried that older neighborhoods are being overburdened with new developments when the county can't afford to provide new schools, teachers and roads.

Another county law already bans new development in the districts of elementary schools that are more than 20 percent over capacity.

In interviews after their meeting with council members, Mr. Hayden and Mr. Kelly stressed that they are not promoting subsidized low-income housing. That topic has been political dynamite in Baltimore County since the 1960s, when racial fears generated a white flight from the city into the county.

The antipathy toward low-income housing is such that Baltimore County is the only large jurisdiction in the state with no public housing, no housing authority, and until 1987, no housing department.

In arguing to include housing in the new fast-track system, Mr. Kelly cited new state building regulations taking effect next year that require expensive sprinkler systems in townhouses and the replanting of trees destroyed for development. He said that will make new homes even harder to afford.

"We've got to do something to get some affordable housing," he said.

Under the proposed fast-track system, developers would submit their plans to the county's zoning administrator. The administrator and other agencies would decide whether a project qualified as a "select" project under the new law's criteria.

For example, Mr. Kelly said, for a commercial project to qualify, it might have to create 200 full-time jobs or contribute at least $200,000 in net revenues to the county each year.

Criteria for residential developments haven't been determined yet, he said, but the general idea is to require that a percentage of new homes in a project be in the affordable range.

Should a project qualify, a public community meeting would follow no sooner than 20 days after the plans were received. Within 10 days of the public meeting, the developer would submit a final plan, which would then be approved or rejected.

Should the development be approved, opponents would have 15 days to appeal to the county Board of Appeals.

Should there be no appeal, grading, building and other technical permits could be issued in as little as 60 days after the approval, according to Zoning Administrator Arnold Jablon, although he said many projects could take a bit longer.

MEDIAN AGES

The 1990 Census shows Baltimore County has the region's highest median age. To attract young families, Executive Roger B. Hayden is proposing fast-track devel- opment rules to let builders of affordable housing start work within as few as 90 days of applying for a permit.

/# Median age ..... 1990 ... 1980

Baltimore City..... 32.6 ... 30.2

Baltimore Co. ..... 35.2 ... 32.4

Anne Arundel ...... 32.7 ... 29.3

Carroll ........... 33.3 ... 30.7

Harford ........... 32.1 ... 28.9

Howard ............ 32.2 ... 30.1

Maryland .......... 33.0 ... 30.3

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