Developers and slow-growth partisans to pitch views before zoning board Discussion of mixed use barred

February 08, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Developers and slow-growth proponents will square off again this week before the county Zoning Board, but there's a catch: They won't be permitted to talk about mixed-use centers, the focal point of the battle over rezoning the eastern half of the county.

Still, county planners and land owners have proposed plenty of other changes to the zoning map with enough inherent controversy to fill the Banneker Room in the George Howard county office building in Ellicott City tomorrow and Wednesday. The two hearings begin at 7:30 p.m.

County Council members, sitting as the Zoning Board, have set aside the two nights for map changes other than those for mixed-use centers, which have generated the most attention in the eastern comprehensive rezoning process.

The rezoning is done about every seven years to make zoning conform to the county's 20-year general plan for growth. The last general plan was approved by the County Council in 1990, and western rezoning was completed in September.

The first night of hearings on zoning regulations drew more than 400 people and, like four other hearings, was dominated by opponents of an 820-acre, mixed-use center at Fulton. Five other tracts proposed for the new mixed-use zoning category, which combines residential, retail and commercial uses, are to be discussed at a Feb. 17 hearing.

The county Planning Board unanimously endorsed the mixed-use designation for all six sites during a work session Saturday. The planning panel has no authority over zoning, however, and its decisions are advisory only.

Excluding mixed-use this week will allow testimony to focus on other sites, such as the proposed rezoning of 54 acres between U.S. 29, Route 103, Long Gate Parkway and Route 100.

Developer Robert Moxley wants general business zoning for the entire property, which is now zoned for a mix of homes, shops and businesses. Residents of the neighboring Wheatfields community object because a large commercial tract could accommodate giant retail operations such as Wal-Mart, Pace or Leedmark.

The Planning Board voted 3-2 during a Jan. 30 work session to recommend apartment and local business zoning, which does not allow large regional stores, as a buffer between the more intense general business uses at the site.

Mr. Moxley objected, saying the property is divided by wetlands and will be further diminished by the widening of Route 103, so that the panel's recommendation "precludes any viable development of the property."

Other changes proposed in the Department of Planning and Zoning's comprehensive rezoning petition would allow apartment development on three sites in Ellicott City now zoned for office-research and half-acre residential development.

The largest change would put virtually all land along the Patapsco River, from Woodstock to Elkridge, into two new "residential-environmental development" districts, which would allow developers to cluster homes to keep development away from environmentally sensitive areas.

John W. Taylor, president of Howard Countians for Responsible Growth, who has led opposition to mixed-use zoning, said he welcomes the chance to focus on other proposals that concern slow-growth advocates.

Much of that concern comes from the deletion of the old "rural" zoning category, which allowed residences on a minimum of three acres. That would mostly be replaced by half-acre residential lots under the planning department's proposal.

To prepare opponents for the hearings, Mr. Taylor's group is sponsoring a meeting at 7:30 tonight at the Clarksville Elementary School on Route 108.

"A lot of this has been hidden in the shadow of the mixed-use center," Mr. Taylor said. "There's a lot more going on around the area that we think people need to be aware of."

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