Howard Council invites groups to hash it out Subdivision rules are focus of talks

December 11, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The County Council broke with tradition yesterday and invite developers and a civic leader to take part in a work session dealing with the county's proposed new subdivision regulations.

Usually, people with special interests are allowed to attend work sessions on legislation affecting them, but unless asked a question by the council, they are seen but not heard.

Not this time. At yesterday's work session, developers pressed their objections whenever they felt like it.

Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, hoped to resolve developer objections to the proposed regulations by having developers, the county planning office, and Carol Filipczak, president of the Howard County Citizens' Association, take part in a round-table discussion.

The problem for Ms. Filipczak was twofold, she said afterward. As the only lay person among professionals, she felt she could not fully take part because of the technical nature of the discussion.

Also, she was outnumbered. Three developers joined her at the table with the council and four others sat in a row behind her. All were given free rein in the discussion.

"It was very curious," Ms. Filipczak said. "I had thought several interests were going to be represented. Shane was seeking to be a consensus builder, but [the meeting] maybe went a little too far in dealing with developers' " needs.

The work session focused on the parts of the proposed subdivision regulations that raise developers' objections: guidelines on how to deal historic resources, a requirement that open space be able to accommodate recreational uses, and a requirement that developers make improvements to state roads that are affected by their developments.

"There is no good definition of what historic sites are," developer James Schulte told the council. "I'm concerned that any old building could be a historic site," he said.

"The historic resource guidelines are ideas to think about, not 'thou shalts,' Deputy Planning Director Marsha McLaughlin said. you destroy a structure, tell us why."

Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, suggested the guidelines include a clause saying that a request for justification should in no way imply that the demolition can't occur.

Darrel Drown, R-2nd, said it should be property owners rather than county officials who decide whether to designate their property as historic. If they do, they should maintain it as such, he said.

OC The county's historic resource list, which can include anything

from buildings to ancient stones and trees, already designates 600 items.

"Having 600 of 'em -- whether it's 600 homes or 600 things -- scares me," Mr. Drown said. "I don't want [the county] to own another [historic] building."

As for recreational open space, Mr. Schulte said developers would find it too expensive to comply both with the state forest conservation requirements, which take effect Jan. 1, and the county open space requirements. He and other developers want the amount of required open space reduced.

Ms. McLaughlin suggested the recreational requirement could be satisfied in a variety of ways, including paths through forests. Or, she said, "it could be a tot lot, a shuffleboard court -- anything."

If a path can satisfy the requirement, Mr. Schulte said he wants that written into the regulations.

Developers objected that being required to make improvements state roads would be a handicap because the county requires developers to make a great many more improvements than the state does.

The council is scheduled to vote on the regulations Jan. 4.

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