Opposition comes out in lesser force Last zoning hearing draws 16 speakers

March 19, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

What had started as a vitriolic debate over proposed mixed-use zoning ended with a whimper yesterday morning.

Only 16 people testified during the 2 1/2 -hour Howard County Zoning Board hearing. Most of them spoke against proposed mixed-use centers, which would include houses, apartments, shops and businesses at six sites in Fulton, North Laurel, Jessup and Ellicott City.

When the county Planning Board began its hearings on the zoning proposal Nov. 17, more than 400 people turned out, many them organized against an 820-acre, mixed-use site in Fulton.

The atmosphere before the Zoning Board was far less charged yesterday as two Clarksville Middle School eighth-graders got their first taste of participatory government by representing more than 60 of their fellow students.

Jill Norman, 13, and Leesa Atherholt, 14, both residents of the Beaufort Park community in Fulton, testified against the proposed mixed-use center near their homes. Echoing the views of many others who had preceded them since November, they said the center would create traffic problems and further strain overcrowded school and recreational facilities.

"If 95 percent of Howard County citizens favor slower growth, and only a few of the citizens want faster growth, why don't our elected officials listen to the majority?" Jill asked.

County Council members, sitting as the Zoning Board, praised the girls' participation. But Chairman C. Vernon Gray questioned Jill on her assessment of public opinion.

"Ninety-five percent? It's the first time I've seen a figure like that," he said, adding that the last poll he was aware of, from 1990, showed that 65 percent of county residents favored slower growth.

Jill said her number was based on student polling.

Speaking in favor of another mixed-use site, at Interstate 95 and Route 214, was David Forester, Rouse Co. vice president and senior development director.

The mixed-use zoning category will help spur economic growth by providing developers with flexibility not found in strictly commercial or residential categories, he said. Success of the concept is demonstrated by the flexible New Town zoning category in Columbia, Mr. Forester said.

Testifying on the mixed-use area proposed for the Curtis-Shipley Farm and University of Maryland Horse Farm in southern Ellicott City, Elkridge Community Association President Cathy Hudson asked why the center was needed.

"If it is to provide employment and shopping opportunities, that need is very adequately met with nearby areas, including the Route 1 corridor, the Dobbin Center area, the [General Electric] complex, Waterloo and Lark Brown shopping center, as well as the Benson Business Park," Ms. Hudson said.

Although the mixed-use hearing is concluded, those who missed their chance to testify may still submit written testimony.

The Zoning Board will continue to hear testimony on other proposed zoning map changes at 7:30 p.m. March 29.

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