Foes dominate hearing on mixed-used zoning Zoning Board plans 5th session

January 12, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Inundated by opponents of proposed mixed-use zoning areas, the county Zoning Board hasn't gotten through even half of its list of 250 speakers in four nights of hearings on changes to zoning regulations.

At the fourth hearing last night, the board announced a fifth session, beginning at 8 p.m. tonight in the Banneker Room of the George Howard county office building in Ellicott City.

Previous nights in December and last Wednesday were dominated by testimony from residents of the Fulton and North Laurel areas who oppose an 820-acre mixed-use center there. Proposed mixed-use zoning would allow a mix of houses, apartments, shops and businesses in an area now mostly zoned for three-acre homesites.

The first round of testimony on comprehensive rezoning of the eastern county is limited to proposed regulations, not specific rezoning sites such as Fulton. The next round, which begins Feb. 9, will hear testimony on proposed changes to specific sites.

To get around that restriction, opponents of the center have voiced opposition to mixed-use regulations in general, and not to the Fulton site. They have also repeatedly criticized the county's 1990 General Plan, on which the comprehensive rezoning is based.

"We bought a pig in a poke when we got the General Plan, and when we opened up the purse, we were real unhappy with what we got," said Virginia Charles of North Laurel.

Not all voices were raised against the mixed-use concept last night, however.

The Howard County Citizen's Association supports the concept, but wants the regulations to give county officials more control over how developers use the new zoning category, testified Carol Filipczak, president of the coalition of citizens' groups.

The regulations also need to have more specific language about where high-density development such as apartments or townhouses could be developed within a mixed-use center, Ms. Filipczak said.

This would protect Zoning Board decisions on individual developments from court challenges, she said.

Ms. Filipczak also urged the board to consider writing the mixed-use regulations to allow business-type development common to employment center zoning, rather than the light industrial uses the administration's proposal would allow.

Miriam F. Dubin, vice president for governmental affairs of the county Chamber of Commerce, also testified in favor of the mixed-use concept.

"When you sit as the County Council, we citizens come before you with a litany of 'Gimme, gimme, gimme.' We want the best schools. We want uncongested, well-maintained roads. We want the finest public safety system, and generous social services."

Creating mixed-use areas would build the tax base to support such programs, she said.

Ms. Dubin stressed, however, that she was not advocating any particular mixed-use sites.

The administration's proposed new zoning map would designate four major mixed-use areas -- the Fulton site and others in Jessup, North Laurel and southern Ellicott City.

Ms. Filipczak also addressed a list of positions on other proposed regulations, from urging that accessory apartments be allowed on homes with smaller lots to opposing the deletion of a requirement that those wishing to build gasoline stations prove that they are needed.

Ms. Dubin also praised new zoning regulations for the western county that were adopted in September, and that legalize many home-based businesses.

But she asked the board to allow home-based businesses in townhouses to have one nonresident employee. That would be prohibited under proposed regulations for the eastern county. "These businesses take commuter traffic off the roads, provide an adult presence in otherwise deserted neighborhoods, serve as incubators for companies that will later grow . . . and, for some of us, it promotes the value of the family," she said, pointing out that her business got its start in a townhouse.

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