Planning Board recommends additional uses in PEC zoning Officials propose changes to attract developers

January 16, 1998|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The county Planning Board unanimously recommended allowing additional uses in planned employment center zoning two months after sending a similar proposal back for reworking.

County planning officials say they proposed the changes because the original PEC concept -- designed for businesses that fell in between retail and industrial zones -- has not attracted developers to the sites. But residents testifying at the initial hearing said that some of the proposed uses would have generated traffic, noise and other problems.

Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the Department of Planning and Zoning, said the new proposal addressed those concerns by specifically limiting manufacturing and warehouses to on-site uses associated with office buildings or research centers. Trucking centers and concert halls were eliminated from the plan.

"It was really just a matter of semantics," he said. "I think I've addressed the concerns of those that testified [two months ago]."

Residents who attended yesterday's meeting said they supported the changes. "The warehouses and concert halls just weren't what we were looking for," said Judith Haxton, who lives on Whiskey Bottom Road in North Laurel. "We wanted to see a little more employment, more offices, a campus-like setting. We wanted to avoid a lot of noise and smell."

Planning Board members said they thought the changes made sense. The board did recommend that the County Council consider adding fast-food outlets that are developed in conjunction with gas stations as a special exception.

"They could be a place where employees go to get a cheap lunch," said board member Gary Kaufman.

The proposal has drawn the attention of those opposing the Rouse Co. plan to develop a 517-acre parcel in North Laurel -- zoned PEC -- into a Columbia-style, mixed-use development.

Some feared that Rouse could use the changes to threaten neighbors with the possibility of undesirable development if it does not get the zoning change it needs for its proposal. The PEC changes are expected to go before the County Council next month.

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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