New rules could cut delays in OK'ing projects Planners hope to simplify process for developers

July 01, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

County planners unveiled new design rules for residential and commercial developments yesterday that they say could reduce the time needed to approve subdivisions by up to 18 months.

"This is a wholesale change in the way the county does business," said Timothy Brenza, a landscape architect with Messick & Associates. "I hope it will be better. There is certainly room for improvement."

Developers frequently complain that projects can become mired for up to three years in a bureaucracy where various regulatory agencies make competing and sometime contradictory demands.

The delays, developers say, cost them money as they continue to pay finance charges on the land while they wait.

"More and more developers are saying, 'This is the last development project I'll do in Anne Arundel County,' " Mr. Brenza said.

County planners have developed new design rules over the past six months to eliminate that problem. Yesterday, they presented the proposal to 175 civil engineers, architects, developers and community leaders in a seven-hour seminar at the county Board of Education hearing room in Parole.

Steve Cover, the county's subdivision review administrator, said the Department of Planning and Code Enforcement will accept comments on the proposals until July 31 before planners draft a final version and send it to the County Council for approval in the fall.

The new rules are a "major overhaul," introducing new definitions for old development terms, simplifying requirements, restructuring the planning staff and introducing new fees that must be paid for certain projects, Mr. Cover said.

The proposal also would place new restrictions on family conveyances, making them subject to some of the same rules that govern subdivisions.

For the first time, if the rules are approved by the council, project designs would be reviewed simultaneously by the county's traffic engineers, planners and environmentalists, working in four teams, Mr. Cover said.

State agencies such as the State Highway Administration and the Department of Natural Resources also have agreed to coordinate their reviews with the county, Mr. Cover said.

The reason for the restructuring is twofold, he said. County officials hope that working in teams will eliminate the often contradictory demands placed on projects by different reviewers, Mr. Cover said.

The change was also necessary because County Executive Robert R. Neall's reorganization of county government reduced the number of planners devoted to reviewing new projects from 18 to 11, Mr. Cover said.

Mr. Brenza said the county has attempted to reform subdivision reviews several times in the past decade.

"It never seems to help," he said. "It just seems to get more complicated. But I'm hopeful."

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