County Council members, residents discuss mixed-use zoning

January 07, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Members of the County Council shared their opinions on mixed-use development with members of the public who turned out last night for a hearing on the comprehensive rezoning of eastern Howard.

The council members -- sitting as the Zoning Board -- normally question speakers about their testimony at such hearings, but last night's session at the George Howard county office building in Ellicott City became more of a "dialogue," as board Chairman C. Vernon Gray put it, between the officeholders and about 150 people in the audience.

"The Zoning Board can't escape its responsibility here," said Mr. Gray, D-3rd, in response to citizens' comments on a proposal to shelve proposed zoning regulations that would allow mixed-use centers with a combination of shops, houses, apartments and businesses, similar to a Columbia village.

The regulations were intended for four major sites in Fulton, North Laurel, Jessup and southern Ellicott City. Opponents claim that mixed-use centers would bring excessive traffic, pollution and crime to county neighborhoods.

Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, was applauded when she reiterated her desire to send mixed-use regulations back to county administration planners and have a citizen committee appointed to study them.

Mr. Gray revealed last night that he and the other three council members also opposed the mixed-use regulations in a straw vote, but that they would continue to hear testimony on the mixed-use concept to garner ideas on how the regulations should be written -- if at all.

Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, said that he would have liked the mixed-use concept to be studied by a citizen committee, but that the comprehensive-rezoning process that is played out about every seven years was too far along for that.

The board had already heard two nights of testimony on eastern comprehensive rezoning when Ms. Pendergrass suggested Dec. 17 that the regulations be sent back to the planners.

Mr. Feaga, who was also applauded by placard-holding mixed-use opponents, said, "I would rather . . . let the people have an opportunity to speak" at the hearings.

In opposing the mixed-use concept, Mr. Feaga introduced a County Council resolution Monday that would remove the Fulton mixed-use area, which has faced the most opposition, from the 1990 General Plan. Comprehensive rezoning is based in large part on the General Plan. The resolution would designate all but a small portion of the 820-acre site for single-family homesites.

The County Council will hold a hearing on the resolution Jan. 19.

The Zoning Board is expected to complete comprehensive rezoning in the spring.

The next board hearing on zoning regulations will begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the George Howard Building.

Two additional hearings, on specific changes to the zoning map, have also been scheduled -- at 8 p.m. Feb. 2, dealing with all map changes except mixed-use centers, and at 8 p.m. Feb. 3, dealing with mixed-use centers.

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