Council plans for more palatable mixed-use zoning Citizens concerned about high density

June 16, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Howard County Council members said last night they want to create a new mixed-use zoning category, but one that would be less threatening to residents than that proposed by administration planners.

"I think we can guarantee you can have less density than you would have in [a half-acre residential] district," said Councilman Darrel Drown, an Ellicott City Republican.

Sitting last night as the Zoning Board, council members heard county planners present more stringent alternatives to the flexible mixed-use regulations the planners had proposed last fall.

Most residents who testified on mixed-use zoning during hearings this spring said they opposed at least one of the six mixed-use sites on the proposed comprehensive rezoning map for the eastern county. Many said they feared the sites would exacerbate congested traffic conditions and school overcrowding.

But Mr. Drown and three other council members said they wanted to significantly lower the allowed density in the proposed mixed-use regulations, which now call for between four to eight residential units per acre.

"I think that the public is worried that because of some misinformation, that we're going to build another Silver Spring on 200 acres, or we're going to build all of Columbia on 300 acres," Mr. Drown said.

Putting limits on density in the regulations, as well as making the people more aware of public involvement in the approval process, could make mixed-use more acceptable, he said.

In response to the council members, planners presented possibilities for four different types of mixed-use, instead of the one originally proposed.

The four possibilities are two residential units per gross acre (meaning the entire acreage of the project); two-and-a-half units; three units; and six units, with the latter to be applied only to sites of 75 gross acres or less. Each of the possibilities require 35 percent open space, up from the original proposal of 30 percent, and a range of 15 percent to 50 percent for offices or shops.

Council members also discussed setting limits on, or even prohibiting, apartment development in some types of mixed-use areas.

Joseph W. Rutter, planning and zoning director, said requiring more than 35 percent open space would force developers to seek higher-density development to make the land commercially viable.

Members also discussed putting limits on the amount of the "open space" in each type of mixed-use area that could be appropriated for public buildings, such as schools. The county Planning Board has recommended a limit of 30 percent.

At the start of last night's Zoning Board work session at the George Howard county office building, the four council members present made statements praising the mixed-use concept.

Council members will meet as the Zoning Board for a work session on the final draft of the regulations at 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday.

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