Change argued for Howard's growth plan

December 16, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

County Councilman Charles C. Feaga yesterday argued for changing the county's proposed long-term growth plan to eliminate controversial mixed-use centers.

"I think these areas should be kept residential," Mr. Feaga said last night before the start of a county Zoning Board hearing on comprehensive rezoning.

He said he believes that there is ample land along the county's major transportation corridors already zoned, or developed, for employment.

Making room for businesses to expand the county's tax base is one of the key selling points for mixed-use. The new mixed-use zoning category could include apartments, houses, shops, offices and warehouses.

The county's proposed rezoning would designate four major tracts for mixed use in Fulton, North Laurel, in Ellicott City at Snowden River Parkway and Route 100, and at U.S. 40 and Ridge Road in Ellicott City.

Much of the opposition to the administration's rezoning proposals has been organized to fight creation of an 820-acre, mixed-use area in Fulton, which is represented by Councilman Feaga. Fulton is currently zoned for 3-acre residential lots.

Mr. Feaga's opposition was echoed by his 1990 Republican primary opponent, John W. Taylor, president of Howard Countians for Responsible Growth.

"When you go to mixed-use zoning, you're creating a whopping tax liability," Mr. Taylor told County Council members, sitting as the Zoning Board. He cited county planners' statements during the 1990 General Plan debates when they said that taxes on rural-zoned, 3-acre homesites more than pay for their share of county services.

Mr. Taylor also attacked the mixed-use concept on other points, and disputed county planners' assertions that the concept had worked in Columbia.

Most of the 250 people at the hearing applauded Mr. Taylor's remarks.

Marsha McLaughlin, deputy planning and zoning director, said the proposed mixed-use regulations should be changed to allay fears of dense residential development in rural areas. The proposed regulation could allow development of up to 20 residential units per acre, but she proposed changing it so that developments of 75 units or larger would be limited to 8 units per acre.

Mr. Feaga, who is precluded from talking about the comprehensive rezoning because it is a quasi-judicial proceeding, got around that prohibition by attacking the mixed-use concept with a legislative proposal to remove mixed-use centers from the General Plan.

The General Plan is a resolution passed by the County Council, a legislative body. Mr. Feaga's proposed change would have to be considered as an amendment.

County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, said he was surprised at Mr. Feaga's announcement, and questioned his timing.

"In some ways, it does undermine the whole process that we're trying to do here," said Mr. Gray, chairman of the zoning board.

Last night's hearing was the first of two nights of testimony on proposed changes in zoning regulations. The second will begin at 8 p.m. tonight in the George Howard county office building.

Two nights of testimony on changes to specific parcels in the zoning map, which includes the mixed-use center in Fulton, are scheduled for 8 p.m. Jan 6 and 11, also in the county office building.

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