County majority opposes sending mixed-use zone plan to study

December 28, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Three of five County Council members say they will oppose County Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass' proposal to have a citizen committee study controversial mixed-use zoning regulations.

"We should not recoil from our responsibility now that the petition is in our decisional sphere," wrote council member and Zoning Board Chairman C. Vernon Gray.

Four major mixed-use centers have been included in the comprehensive re-zoning plan for the eastern half of Howard, now being considered by the Zoning Board. Mixed-use zoning would allow a combination of shops, houses, apartments and businesses, similar to a Columbia village.

One of those sites, in rural Fulton, prompted hundreds of opponents from Fulton, North Laurel and Highland to turn out for Zoning Board hearings on comprehensive rezoning last week.

Mr. Gray, D-3rd, responded in a memo Tuesday to Ms. Pendergrass, D-1st. On Dec. 18, she proposed sending the regulations back to County Executive Charles I. Ecker for further study by a citizen committee.

The executive said he was not opposed to the proposal.

Ms. Pendergrass cited "great anger and frustration with the zoning process" in a letter to Mr. Gray. She said she was concerned that the Ecker administration's planners failed to involve citizens enough in planning mixed-use zoning.

But even Charles C. Feaga, the Republican councilman who represents Fulton and favors scrapping the mixed-use category altogether, said further study is not the way to do it.

"Past history proves that the council pretty much does what it wants to anyway, so we might as well take the bull by the horns and do it," Mr. Feaga said.

Mr. Feaga said that before council members, sitting as the Zoning Board, could reject the mixed-use zoning category, they must amend the 1990 General Plan in a County Council vote. The General Plan is the county's 20-year growth plan and the framework for comprehensive rezoning, which takes place every seven years.

Councilman Darrel Drown, R-2nd, said he too disagrees with sending the mixed-use regulations back to the executive.

"To take it back to the drawing board I think is erroneous at this stage of the game, " Mr. Drown said.

But unlike Mr. Feaga, both Mr. Gray and Mr. Drown said they have not made up their minds about the mixed-use concept.

And Mr. Drown said he generally favors it.

"We have to look at the remaining large parcels in a comprehensive manner," he said. "If we take out that concept at this stage, I think we can end up hurting ourselves and causing worse problems."

What could hurt, Mr. Drown said, is if the county's few remaining large, undeveloped tracts are developed one piece at a time, without the overall planning and public hearings that mixed-use zoning would provide.

He said he would consider Mr. Feaga's proposal to rezone the Fulton site from three-acre homesite zoning to mostly half-acre zoning with less than 50 acres of "planned employment center" zoning, which allows office, warehouse and other business development.

Ms. Pendergrass could not be reached during the holiday weekend for comment on the response to her proposal. Council Chairman Paul Farragut, D-4th, was also unavailable.

Zoning Board hearings on zoning regulations will continue Jan. 6 and 11. Hearings for map changes, such as the Fulton mixed-use site, have not been scheduled. Speaker sign-up sheets for both sets of hearings will be available throughout the hearings.

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