Mixed-Use Zoning PropagandaThe Howard County government...


July 04, 1993

Mixed-Use Zoning Propaganda

The Howard County government has released a flier that calls mixed-use development the "intelligent way to grow." Mixed use zoning has not yet been enacted by the zoning board, and evidently from this flier, the county executive, through his Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ), is making a final push to get unpopular mixed use approved. This flier is an exercise in half-truths and misconclusions and needs to be addressed point by point.

The DPZ flier says that single-family detached housing yields more school children than apartment or townhouse zoning. By housing unit type that might be true. But you have to add the total number of units you build on a given piece of land to get the total school children yield. A single-family detached house statistically creates more school children than a single apartment. But you can place a lot more apartments on an acre of land than you can single-family houses. The rest of the story is that mixed-use zoning would really pack our already overcrowded schools. And our fraudulent "Adequate Facilities Ordinance," written by developers for developers, would do nothing to alleviate that fact.

The DPZ flier says that we need mixed-use zoning for our economic future. I spoke with both County Executive Charles Ecker and Budget Director Raymond Wacks, asking for the hard data regarding the contention that our economy should be based upon 30 percent commercial/70 percent residential assessments. They both admitted that no studies or analyses to support those numbers exist. Worse, no studies of the costs of mixed-use zoning exist.

Next, the DPZ flier says mixed-use zoning would help the environment. Flatly not true. While mixed use requires 30 percent "open space," this open space is legally defined to include county buildings and "public interest uses." Hardly the stream valley protection suggested in the county flier. . . . In a related factual error, the flier contends that three-acre zoning has no open space requirement. Not so. There is a 5-percent open space requirement with three-acre zoning, a fairly large number considering the large acreage involved in a typical three-acre lot subdivision. . . .

In summary, the DPZ flier, paid for with our tax dollars, . . . is a blatant attempt to sell special interest zoning to an unwilling populace. Far from being the "intelligent way to grow," mixed

use is a huge mistake for Howard County. . . .

John Taylor


Managable Growth

An interesting article in The Sun June 15, titled "Discrimination Against Older Schools Charged," cited that the majority of the Board of Education's budget for school construction/maintenance is spent on building new schools in the Columbia area.

This seems to be a strange procedure! Residents are paying taxes to have their children educated in schools that are lacking in proper maintenance, while people just moving into the county tend to live in areas with newly constructed schools.

Why is this? It is due to the county government's emphasis on growth rather than maintaining and improving existing infrastructure. . . .

A second article June 16, titled "Council Plans for More Platable Mixed-Use Zoning," demonstrates the county government is still the path of the failed growth policy. Hundreds of local residents opposed the Waverly Woods mixed-use center. Hundreds of residents are opposed to the Fulton mixed-use center. The County Council (also known as the Zoning Board) has just realized that citizens are concerned about high density, and may need to decrease the density. . . .

What do these two articles have to do with each other? They illustrate the impact of the present general plan on every resident of the county. It is ironic that the schools in Columbia (the county's first and still growing mixed-use center) should be victims of the present growth policies, especially given Columbia is the county's "show piece of success" and the education system reported to be the "best in the state."

For those readers who now want to label me a NIMBY or "no-growth nut," please understand I accept the fact that the county will grow and even agree that "measured" growth is necessary. But the present measure of growth far exceeds what the county can afford.

Roger D. Hall


Bicycle Safety

The tragic death of William E. Shenk, struck from behind while commuting to work on his bicycle in southern Howard County, fills me with anger and fear. I am angry because as an avid and safety-conscious bicyclist, just as Mr. Shenk, I get very little respect from many motorists while trying to enjoy my bicycle rides. I also fear that the situation may not get any better.

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