PUD law is passed unanimously

May 03, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore County Council unanimously approved last night a little-heralded bill that is viewed as vitally important to the preservation of the county's older, urbanized commercial areas.

The measure, a commercial Planned Unit Development (PUD) law, will allow redevelopment of many commercial areas without the long, expensive rezoning process that occurs only once every four years.

For example, an investor wanting to build a restaurant on land zoned for light industry where an abandoned gas station sits can do it without getting a zoning change.

Currently, the investor applies for rezoning, which can take several years, before he can begin to submit a redevelopment plan. The next comprehensive rezoning will be in 1996.

Any redevelopment plans submitted under the commercial Planned Unit Development law still will have to undergo review by county government, as any new development must. Only the rezoning will be eliminated.

The PUD law also allows the county to reject proposals that are incompatible with neighborhoods or that would cause problems such as traffic congestion. There will be no exemptions for sensitive projects such as used car lots or incinerators that now require a special zoning exception and a public hearing.

County Planning Director Arnold F. "Pat" Keller told the council that the county will issue maps each year delineating land eligible under the new law. He said the map will keep the new developments concentrated along major highways and away from residential neighborhoods.

The new law, which does not apply to land zoned residential or agricultural, will make changes -- such as the one in the restaurant example -- easier, quicker and less expensive, which will be a boon to business interests.

Residential communities will be protected since, if a deal fell through, the zoning and the permitted land uses would remain unchanged.

Former county Planning Director P. David Fields, who is working exclusively on plans for revitalizing and preserving urban county neighborhoods that are under stress, called the bill "one of the most significant pieces of legislation in terms of economic development and stabilizing our older communities in at least a decade."

The measure was supported by a coalition of community and business interests and sponsored by six of the seven council members.

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