Expanded employment-area zoning sought Land-use attorney urges council to add restaurants, banks, some retail outlets

March 17, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A prominent land-use attorney urged the Howard County Council last night to establish additional uses for areas with the business-oriented Planned Employment Center (PEC) zoning.

Such zoning allows office buildings, warehouses and manufacturing.

The county Department of Planning and Zoning has proposed expanding the zoning category to include banks, restaurants and limited retail, such as gas stations. The council is considering legislation introduced at the request of the Ecker administration.

"For 13 years or so since PEC was applied here, there hasn't been much development," said Richard Talkin, the attorney, in support of the measure. "We have to make it more conducive to businesses."

Talkin represents Hopkins Road Limited Partnership, which owns a 100-acre parcel in Fulton that is zoned PEC and is seeking development proposals.

Talkin said the proposed changes have sped talks between Hopkins and several companies interested in locating in Fulton.

"There's certainly more interest," Talkin said, declining to name the potential companies. "There are a number of things we're discussing."

Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the Department of Planning and Zoning, also supported amending PEC zoning and said the proposed changes would attract companies and jobs to the county.

Introduced in 1985, PEC zoning was to draw research and development companies and corporate headquarters of business giants to Howard, Rutter said. "What changed over time was that corporate headquarters-like facilities were not as prominent because of downsizing and restructuring" in the early 1990s, he said.

Also last night, Talkin asked the council to include fast-food restaurants in the zoning changes as a benefit for people who work in PEC zones.

But Councilman C. Vernon Gray voiced concern that developers would focus on fast-food restaurants and not other employment development, and that strips of fast-food outlets would result. "Are we going to see fast food and nothing else here?" the east Columbia Democrat asked. "That's my concern."

Talkin said requiring developers to apply for a special exception would prevent such a situation.

The council is expected to vote on the bill at its April 6 meeting.

Pub Date: 3/17/98

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