County may ease some zoning rules Goal is housing that is more diverse, more traditional

Public meeting Saturday

Officials looking for 'renaissance' in land use

September 11, 1997|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Cookie-cutter subdivisions soon may be history in Anne Arundel County.

County officials are considering whether to loosen zoning regulations that dictate the spacing, height and parking requirements for new homes in an effort to encourage more eclectic, diverse and traditional-looking neighborhoods.

The county's Planning and Code Enforcement Department will meet at 9 a.m. Saturday at Anne Arundel Community College to ask the public's opinion about possible revisions to county building requirements.

The zoning officials will examine permitting alternatives to the monotonous cul-de-sacs that have consumed suburbia over the past quarter-century.

"What we are looking at here is the early stages of a planning and land-use renaissance in this county," said Steven R. Cover, the county's director of planning and code enforcement.

Among the questions being considered by the county are:

Should the county continue requiring all homes in certain areas zoned residential to stand at least 25 feet from the property line?

That requirement can make it difficult for developers to build increasingly popular traditional-looking neighborhoods, which often have houses closer to the street, Cover said.

The requirement also can cause an awkward zig-zag look when new homes are built in the middle of older neighborhoods such as Glen Burnie, where homes are sometimes 10 feet from the sidewalk, county officials said.

The county requires builders to spend as much as four months and thousands of dollars to get zoning variances to match existing neighborhoods, county officials said.

An alternative might be to allow more flexibility, Cover said.

Should the county continue setting a height limit of 35 feet for homes in many residential areas?

That requirement makes it difficult for developers to build townhouses with garages beneath them, county officials said. Occasionally, builders lop off peaked roofs and leave flat tops to stay within the limit.

Should the county keep its rule that most new houses must have two off-street parking spaces?

That sometimes creates neighborhoods where every front yard is devoured by blacktop, Cover said.

Should the county continue barring rear decks less than 20 feet from property lines in many residential areas?

At the Chapman Farms subdivision in Crofton, for example, that requirement has forced dozens of homeowners to take the expensive step of getting zoning variances from the county to build a porch.

All of those possibilities are being discussed, said James J. Cannelli, assistant director of planning and code enforcement.

County planners plan to present proposed revisions in the zoning laws to the County Council, which would have to approve any changes, next year.

As part of a general move toward revising its land-use policies, the County Council approved last week a long-term land-use plan that seeks to discourage development in rural areas and encourage traditional-looking neighborhoods adapted to pedestrians.

County planners also are considering creating transferable development rights that would allow builders to increase the density of homes in one area if they preserved rural land in another.

"We are looking at how we can prevent new developments from sprawling out all over the countryside -- to make them more compact while at the same time making them compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods," said Richard Josephson, the county's administrator of long-range planning.

Pub Date: 9/11/97

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