Ecker tells builders he'll push for rezoning that could allow more development

January 28, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker told homebuilders last night that he will continue advocating a comprehensive growth plan that could allow higher density housing and more commercial development in designated areas.

"Somehow, I have to convince the opponents that this is the way to go," he told about 115 members of the Home Builders Association of Maryland's Howard chapter, many of whom were wearing "Building Is Recovery" buttons, at Turf Valley in Marriottsville.

The county Zoning Board is considering the comprehensive rezoning of the eastern county. A proposal to designate certain areas as "mixed-use centers" -- which would allow a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, apartments and businesses in the same zone -- has drawn opposition from homeowners. The areas being considered now are designated primarily for single-family homes on one- to three-acre sites.

"We need to take large parcels and say this is the way they will be developed," said Mr. Ecker. "It might not happen until the year 2000 and it might take 20 years to develop. But we have to plan in a comprehensive way or we will have haphazard, piecemeal zoning when applications are filed."

Areas designated for public water and sewer service are not likely to be developed as one- to three-acre homesites, even though they are zoned that way now, Mr. Ecker predicted.

"They will be rezoned piecemeal," he said.

Mr. Ecker also supported "phasing development." The County Council is considering a plan that would set limits on the number of housing units it would allow to be built for the 10 years beginning in 1996. The council must adopt a housing allocation chart each year to assure that the county's schools and roads can accommodate growth.

The county has lacked a long-range plan for growth, such as the one that has guided Columbia's development, said Mr. Ecker. Problems associated with rapid growth outside of Columbia, such as crowded schools and an inadequate road network, became apparent in the 1980s and highlighted the need for a comprehensive plan, he said.

Mr. Ecker also discussed the county budget, solid waste management, economic development, property taxes and citizens' participation in government in a speech that hit some of the themes as his recent State of the County address.

He said the county budget has been reduced by 7 percent -- from $286 million to $265 million -- over the last three years, causing a reduction in some services such as trash collection.

"We need to maintain our quality of life -- the school system, libraries, culture, the arts, and public safety," he said. "It's my number one priority but that doesn't mean there will be a lot of money available. We'll have to do it with limited resources, in different ways."

He said raising property taxes is "not a viable option." But he added, "I'm not saying they won't be raised. They may have to be."

Promoting business development would reduce the financial burden on homeowners to pay for services, he said.

He expressed a preference for incinerating waste rather than burying it in landfills, and advocated a regional approach to solving solid waste problems.

He said he wants residents to participate more actively in government and to consider all sides of issues that affect the county's future, such as the comprehensive rezoning.

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