Planning rules foster landscaping, open space Changes likely to benefit apartments

January 06, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

New county subdivision regulations will mandate mor landscaping between housing types, help preserve historic properties and require that open space be set aside for recreational use. The Howard County Council unanimously approved the changes Monday.

"This was an attempt to do a major editing and streamlining of the regulations in order to add to the quality of development," said Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of the Department of Planning and Zoning. "Hopefully, things will be a lot easier than in the past."

Most of the changes were technical, but several were of general interest, Ms. McLaughlin said. In the past, for example, developers could designate parking lot islands and land beneath transmission lines as open space. Those designations are not possible under the new rules.

Under the new rules, a certain portion of the open space -- about 200 square feet per unit -- must be usable for recreational purposes. But the designated land would not have to be improved for recreational purposes.

Builders who put recreational facilities such as tennis courts or swimming pools in their developments will not have to provide as much open space as would otherwise be required.

The change should benefit apartments and town houses on limited sites, Ms. McLaughlin said.

The landscaping requirements have been made more specific. There is a heavy emphasis on buffering developments from public roads and adjacent housing.

The new regulations also require that grading be done to ensure that new homes will have a level back yard.

The historic properties section of the regulations, new to this revision, are guidelines rather than requirements.

They suggest ways that development of properties with historic sites can "be integrated and harmonious" with the historic sites, Ms. McLaughlin said.

The guidelines will not go into effect until the council approves a list a historic properties submitted by the planning department.

A list of 600 such properties was included in the 1990 General Plan, but developers and council members objected to using it with the guidelines because they believed it to be too general. Any 50-year-old house, rock or tree could become a historic property, opponents said.

The council tabled until next month a vote on the planning department's revision of the third volume of its design manual, which deals primarily with county roads.

The revision reduces the width of county roads in some instances.

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