Board votes to rezone Fulton site as mixed use Designation given to three other tracts

July 30, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

A three-year battle over how rural Fulton should be developed was all but put to rest late Wednesday when the county Zoning Board decided to rezone 820 acres there as a mixed-use site.

The change would allow a Columbia-style village with a strictly regulated combination of houses, apartments, shops and businesses on land now zoned for three-acre residential lots. It was the most bitterly opposed component of the county's comprehensive rezoning plan, drawing hundreds of opponents at the first eastern comprehensive rezoning hearing in November.

Sitting as the Zoning Board, all five County Council members voted to designate the Fulton site and three others as mixed-use centers.

"I hope the public realizes that a mixed use might allow some good planning also, that it wouldn't just be helter-skelter," said Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a Republican who represents the Fulton area. One example of that, he said, is the mixed-use requirement that 35 percent of the land be reserved for open space.

Lawmakers delayed until September decisions on the largest proposed mixed-use site -- 1,085 acres straddling Interstate 95 in North Laurel -- and a 42-acre site southeast of Route 216 at U.S. 29 near Scaggsville.

The decisions made at the work session will not be final until the board signs the package of zoning changes, probably in September.

Mr. Feaga said he held out hope that the council could still lower density at the Fulton site. If it can't, he said he might support a proposal by Councilman Paul Farragut that would make providing moderately priced housing a condition of developing at a density above 2.3 units per acre.

The board voted instead to adopt two types of mixed use, with limits of three and six units per acre. The three-unit mixed use was assigned to Fulton.

The county planning department's comprehensive rezoning petition presented last fall would have allowed up to eight units per acre in one mixed-use category, but Fulton residents and others turned out in force, arguing that the plan would bring traffic gridlock, overcrowded schools and crime.

John W. Taylor, president of Howard Countians for Responsible Growth, organized much of the opposition to the Fulton site.

"Literally hundreds of citizens turned out at several hearings to testify against mixed use at Fulton, so [the board's] unanimous vote raises the question, 'Who are they representing, the citizenry or the building and development industry?' " he said. He called the reduction from the proposed residential density "a shell game."

"What they did was come out with an outrageous proposal, back halfway away from it and claim to be moderate and compromising," said Mr. Taylor, who narrowly lost a bid to unseat Mr. Feaga in 1990 and is planning a rematch next year.

The mixed-use concept, which was a key feature of the county's 1990 General Plan, was backed almost exclusively by county planners, landowners and members of the business community. They argued that it would increase the commercial tax base in a controlled and predictable manner. Without it, the same areas would be haphazardly rezoned, if not by the Zoning Board, then by the courts.

Putting jobs and homes together was also touted by state and PTC local planners. People who live and work in the same place

would not contribute as much to auto emissions, they said, and )) clustering homes cuts back on large lawns' chemical runoff, which damages the Chesapeake Bay watersheds.

The board also voted 4-1 to rezone a 184-acre site at Old Montgomery Road and Route 108 to the three-units-per-acre mixed-use area.

The board voted 4-1 to create a six-units-per-acre mixed-use site on the south side of U.S. 40 at Ridge Road in Ellicott City.

The fourth mixed-use area, unanimously approved, is the 569-acre Chase property between I-95 and U.S. 1 north of Guilford Road in Jessup. Washington businessman Kingdon Gould Jr. has proposed a quarry and a golf course for the site.

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