Land-use bill about input, not religion...We wish to thank...

LETTERS

December 01, 1996|By Rick Kemp Pub Date: 12/01/96

Land-use bill about input, not religion...

We wish to thank you and your reporting staff for the fair and objective reporting on the intent and content of Anne Arundel County Bill 93-96, the land use bill for RA (residential agricultural) zoned land, co-sponsored by County Councilmen John J. Klocko III and Bert L. Rice.

The Sun's articles and editorials have "blown away the smoke screen" presented by the bill's opponents and their lobbyists. And, you have provided your readers an opportunity to analyze the true impetus behind this legislation: ensuring public input and review of non-profit structures and facilities in RA-zoned areas when they exceed a certain size.

Recently in Anne Arundel, controversy has surfaced over deer hunting in Sandy Point State Park, Annapolis-city annexation of county land in Annapolis Neck and zoning requirements for assisted-living facilities in several areas. In each case, there exists either legislation or a forum for notification to the citizenry and input/review by the citizenry.

Bill 93-96 provides this fundamental and necessary right to the citizens of RA-zoned districts.

Coincident to the timing of this legislation's review and its "one issue" opposition, the Anne Arundel County General Development Plan is being presented to the public. The GDP's October 1996 draft summary states as a goal to "preserve agricultural and rural areas of the county." It calls for the creation of a "core agricultural area" within the RA area of southern Anne Arundel County. It identifies environmentally sensitive preservation areas and flood-plains, the majority of which lie in rural agricultural land use areas. And it calls for the establishment of Transferable Development Rights, used successfully in Montgomery County, where development rights in RA-land use areas can be purchased and transferred to more appropriate locations.

We find it ironic that the stated goals of the 1996 GDP-update and the underlying spirit of Bill 93-96 are the same: recognizing the need to preserve the character of RA land from unchecked development. The Sun's reporting and analysis of this bill has reinforced our resolve to support this bill.

#David and Diann McGarvey

Davidsonville

...But it unnecessarily infringes on churches

Anne Arundel County Bill 93-96 is simply a zoning measure which would impose certain conditions on churches in the residential-agricultural zone. Where the legislation imposes significant restrictions on churches, it must be justified by some compelling interest of the council. It is not.

More than 80 percent (81,900 acres) of the county is zoned RA. The need to preserve rural character and environmental integrity is commendable and is supported by the United Methodist discipline. However, use by churches of a limited amount of the huge amount of RA land is a small price to pay for what churches give back to the community. Also, environmental features such as floodplains, wetlands and steep slopes are already protected against development by existing law.

Nothing leads us to believe that the county faces any significant ingress of churches. We know of only one such church. Our calculations reflect that Riverdale's 40-acre site, even if covered entirely, would constitute .0004 percent of available RA land. One-hundred such churches would use only 4 percent of the available RA land. There is nothing compelling about stopping one church, nor is the argument for preserving RA compelling in light of the obviously limited impact church use would have on available RA land.

Present law permits 25 percent net coverage, counting buildings only. The new law retains the 25 percent coverage but counts both buildings and parking. Since parking covers at least the same amount of the site as buildings, the bill effectively reduces permitted coverage by 50 percent. And remember, this area excludes already protected floodplains and wetlands. It is arbitrary to impose this burden on churches and it is unfair to automatically render lawfully existing churches non-conforming and subject to this bill.

There is no reasonable, much less compelling, justification for the proposed law. It is arbitrary, untimely in light of the ongoing General Development Plan revisions and unaccompanied by the requisite justification for such legislation. It is, simply stated, not needed.

Centenary United Methodist Church, for which I am authorized to speak, welcomes Riverdale Baptist and any other church to worship in Anne Arundel County and supports the many others which are already doing so.

Bob Lee

Annapolis

The writer is chairman of the trustees of Centenary United Methodist Church.

County workers as state lawmakers?

Constitutional Amendment Question 3 provided "that non-elected members of a law enforcement agency, a fire department or agency, or a rescue squad may also hold another office of profit and are eligible to be senators or delegates to the Maryland General Assembly."

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