50 brave stormy weather to attend hearing on eastern Howard rezoning

March 05, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Despite the weather, a day-long Zoning Board hearing for the comprehensive rezoning of eastern Howard drew about 50 people yesterday, mostly developers, zoning attorneys and landowners asking for zoning changes at sites from Ellicott City to Savage.

They requested rezonings for a trucking depot in southern Elkridge, a warehouse store in northern Ellicott City, a conference center in Savage, a taco place in Elkridge, an expanded car wash on U.S. 40 and a host of other commercial ventures.

Two previous hearings were held at night and were dominated by citizens who opposed the proposed comprehensive zoning map prepared by county planners. Many residents expressed fears about six mixed-use areas and large tracts of the new R-ED2 (two homes per net acre) and R-ED3 (three homes per acre) zoning.

The comprehensive map, which is subject to the approval of the Zoning Board, will a guide development in eastern Howard for approximately the next decade.

Yesterday, a majority of County Council members, who sit as the Zoning Board, questioned whether some developers were interested in one proposed new zoning category, "residential-environmental development," (R-ED) for the wrong reasons.

Several property owners and developers asked for the new categories, but their motives were questioned by board member Shane Pendergrass, D-1st.

"I'm not entirely pleased with the R-ED definition," she told developers of Marshalee Woods, a residential development in Elkridge.

Developers, board members said, seem to be looking at the new category only as a means to increase the numbers of homes they can build on particular parcels.

In Marshalee Woods, for instance, developers have complained that new county regulations, including noise restrictions, have cut their original plan for 69 lots to 54. Switching to the new residential-environmental zoning classification, they say, would recoup that loss.

In fact, the developers calculated that R-ED could yield 87 homes at the Marshalee Woods site.

"I guess I'm worried about getting added density, even if it's done in an environmentally sensitive way," said board member Darrel Drown, R-2nd.

Board members have indicated that they would like to write regulations so that major new areas of R-ED zoning would not allow more homes that current half-acre and quarter-acre zoning.

The hearing at the George Howard county office building was limited to testimony on changes to the county zoning map, excluding the controversial mixed-use centers proposed by county planners.

Ms. Pendergrass said one of the most difficult of the individual requests by land owners will be one that would allow a 100-bay truck terminal next to a mobile home park in southern Elkridge.

The owner of the property, St. Charles Realty, a holding company for Maryland National Bank, wants to change about 19 acres of general business zoning, which is generally used for large shopping centers or light manufacturing.

Ronald Schimel, an attorney for First Howard County Land Trust, which owns the trailer park, said the firm plans to expand the Aladdin Village trailer park. The truck depot would be "entirely incompatible" with the park, he said.

If the park site is re-zoned, however, the land trust also would want its land rezoned to manufacturing or general business.

Daytime hearings have often been criticized by citizen groups, who complain that while developers and lawyers are paid to attend the hearings, they must take time off.

"What they should do, in fairness to the people, is after these daytime sessions are over, is to have one more night for testimony," said Tom O'Brien, a southern Ellicott City resident and frequent speaker at public hearings.

But board Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, said comprehensive rezoning hearings would be completed during the day.

"It's just tough; it's tough to find nights," he said. "We have to find time when all of us can be here. It's very taxing on members and their families to go on for four nights."

Although developers and their representatives clearly were in the majority, a few citizens did take time off from work, brave the heavy rain and strong winds to testify against proposed rezonings.

Richard Luebke, representing the 75 town houses of Ellicott Meadows in Ellicott City, testified against a request by neighboring landowner Nicholas Mangione.

Mr. Mangione yesterday asked zoning board members to grant him 25 acres of general business zoning instead of the current office/research to accommodate a Sam's Club membership store between routes 29, 40 and Ridge Road.

He said it was a compromise from the individual 54-acre rezoning sought by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for a Sam's Club and a Wal-Mart department store. The board unanimously rejected that petition, and its decision was upheld on appeal by a Circuit Court judge last week.

Mr. Luebke said the Sam's Club "would intensify an already dangerous traffic situation" on U.S. 40, and urged the board to keep the parcel zoned office/research.

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