Affordable housing package expected to lose in council

January 04, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

After it considers a plethora of amendments to proposed affordable housing legislation tonight, the County Council is expected to vote the package down.

Three of the five council members -- Darrel Drown, R-2nd; Charles C. Feaga, R-5th; and Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st -- said last week the bill is too flawed for them to vote for it regardless of how it is amended.

Their concerns about the bill are threefold. They say developer incentives will raise housing densities to an unacceptable level, that the people the bill helps most are the people who least need help, and that administering the program will be a bureaucratic nightmare.

The most radical amendment, one that would make the program voluntary rather than mandatory, isn't enough, they say.

Regardless, all five council members are expected to have plenty to say before casting their final votes on the proposal.

C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, the bill's sponsor, is concerned that the three-bill package may be the county's last opportunity to provide affordable housing. "The real issue is whether local government wants to encourage the building of affordable housing," he said.

Ms. Pendergrass says the real issue is cumulative density changes that favor developers.

"Outside Columbia, people are seeing zoning changes to higher density, and they're very angry about that," she told the Columbia Council last week.

"They see changing housing types within a zone, and that's upsetting to them," she said. "They're not sure they're willing to accept that type of cost for the benefit."

The three-bill package has been tabled twice since October and cannot be tabled again. If enacted, it would increase the county's stock of affordable housing by 250 units a year.

Legislative bodies table bills and resolutions when they want to defer consideration to a specific time or when they want to bury the proposals completely without voting them up or down. The council must vote to remove tabled legislation from the table in order to discuss it and vote on it.

A second package of tabled legislation the council will consider tonight deals with a virtual rewrite of the county's subdivision regulations. The council met with developers and a civic leader in early December to find solutions to problems raised at a November public hearing.

As a result of the December meeting, the council will consider amendments tonight on guidelines for dealing with 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.

The council also is expected to delay the county's takeover of St. Mary's Cemetery in Turf Valley Overlook for at least a month.

Resolutions authorizing the county to take control of the 3.2-acre Ellicott City property and designate it as open space are expected to be shelved because the county still hasn't been unable to work out a three-way land swap among the county, cemetery owner H. Allen Becker and developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr.

Finding suitable lots to trade Mr. Becker for the cemetery has been virtually impossible. One of the lots the county hoped to trade does not have a clear title. The county has had a problem finding a replacement in an adjoining neighborhood.

The other lot the county wants to trade adjoins the property of Donna Gfeller on Boone's Lane. Ms. Gfeller wants the county to look elsewhere. She told the council she bought her property and built there on the assumption that county open space would adjoin her back yard.

In addition to considering 10 other pieces of legislation tonight, the council will vote on five nominees to various boards and commissions: David Brown to the Plumbing Advisory Board, Margaret Browning to the Commission on Disability Issues, Michael Deets to the Public Transportation Board, William E. Eakle to the Personnel Board and Evelyn L. Tanner to the Board of Appeals.

All but Mr. Deets have served previously.

COUNCIL MEETING

What: County Council legislative session.

When: 8 tonight.

Where: County Office Building, Ellicott City.

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