County planner rebuts critics of rezoning plan Much of the area to keep low density

February 10, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Despite criticism that eastern comprehensive rezoning would permit drastic increases in development, nearly half of the eastern part of Howard County will remain zoned for single-family homes, a county planner told the Zoning Board last night.

"It is clear that the eastern part of the county is still going to be a low-density residential area," said Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning.

Ms. McLaughlin used tables and pie charts showing that the net effect of the administration's proposed comprehensive rezoning would be to reduce low-density zoning from 51 percent to 46 percent of all the land in the eastern end of the county.

Ms. McLaughlin spoke during the first night of testimony on proposed changes to the zoning map. County Council members, sitting as the Zoning Board, have already heard five nights of testimony on zoning regulation changes. They completed western rezoning in September.

The eastern zoning changes, if approved by the board, would probably add about 10,000 residential units to the nearly 73,000 that already exist countywide, Ms. McLaughlin said.

About 200 speakers had signed up as of last night for the map-change hearings, which continue tonight at 7:30 in the George Howard County Office Building in Ellicott City. About 130 people attended last night's hearing.

More people are expected to show up next Wednesday, as the Zoning Board begins taking testimony on mixed-use sites. The new mixed-use zoning category would permit a mix of houses, apartments, shops and businesses, similar to the pattern of development in Columbia. This is precisely why some people object to the plan.

"The people in this area do not want to be just an extension of Columbia," said Tim Schantz of Fulton, one of several residents to address the board last night. "People believed that this area was to be left outside the development mix of Columbia."

About half of the 10,000 additional homes expected from the proposed zoning would be built on mixed-use areas, Ms. McLaughlin said. She acknowledged that twice as many were theoretically possible, as mixed-use opponents have pointed out.

That is because unlike much of the existing zoning, mixed-use zoning allows the board to exercise wide discretion over the density of each development.

The Planning Board, which delivered its formal recommendation to the Zoning Board last night, endorsed all six mixed-use sites, including an 820-acre site in rural Fulton that has been the focus of opposition. It also backed proposals in most areas for two new types of "residential-environmental development" stretching from Woodstock to Elkridge along the Patapsco River.

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