Howard to allow traditional design

April 09, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

The county Zoning Board struck a blow yesterday for anyone who's tired of looking at cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac of two-story colonials on half-acre lots.

County Council members, sitting as the Zoning Board, voted 5-0 to approve new regulations permitting "traditional neighborhood design," a kind of 1990s version of a centuries-old concept -- old-fashioned city blocks bisected by alleyways.

Joseph W. Rutter, the county's planning and zoning director, told board members that current zoning regulations don't allow XTC that kind of development.

"Our current definition of alley would have a 50-foot right-of-way," he said. Under the new regulations, county planners would be able to allow more traditional alleys, as narrow as 16 feet. The regulations also do away with setback requirements for streets and alleys.

But the regulations could not be used as a loophole, Mr. Rutter said. The reduced setbacks and other changes would only apply to developments that use an overall traditional neighborhood design, as defined in the new regulations.

The changes were prompted by the testimony of developers of Terra Maria, a "neo-traditional" development on Route 144 near Manor Lane in western Ellicott City.

The traditional neighborhood design regulations could be used in developments of at least 20 acres in residential zoning districts that allow houses or apartments to be clustered two homes or more to an acre.

The regulations will not be officially approved until the entire regulation package is signed by a majority of the council members, which may not happen until this summer.

During yesterday's work session, the Zoning Board:

* Voted to allow home-based businesses in town houses, apartments or condominiums to employ one nonresident, full-time-equivalent employee, but only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

County planners had proposed prohibiting any outside help in businesses that are based in town houses or apartments.

Board member Charles C. Feaga, a Republican who represents western Howard, recommended that one employee be allowed during daylight hours. The council agreed to accept the 9-to-5 hours proposed as a compromise by Shane Pendergrass, a Democrat who represents southeastern Howard, an area with many town houses and apartments.

"At least they are able to operate," said Ubbo Van Der Valk, president of the Home Occupations Council of Howard County. "In the end, I think everyone can live with it."

* Voted to permit the Board of Appeals to continue allowing owners to double the size of nonconforming use properties. A land use is nonconforming if it is not permitted under current zoning, but existed before the prohibitive zoning took effect.

County planners had sought to limit expansions to 50 percent.

Board member Paul R. Farragut, a Democrat who represents western Columbia, convinced his colleagues to allow 100 percent expansions, but make clear that nonconforming use can only be expanded once.

The Zoning Board will meet for another work session on comprehensive eastern county rezoning at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the George Howard County office building.

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