'Neighborhood commercial' zoning category discussed

September 11, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

During a workshop last night, Westminster Planning and Zoning Commission discussed a new zoning category that could clear the way for village-style shopping centers near several residential areas.

Commissioners talked about banning certain uses in the city's new "neighborhood commercial zones" -- such as bowling alleys, churches and department stores -- but decided to put off discussion on design standards until next month.

Yesterday's discussion was guided by suggestions that a six-member Citizens Advisory Committee had forwarded to the commission this summer.

After meeting with city planners several times, the citizens group suggested that stores in the new zoning category be limited to 20,000 square feet and designed as village-style shopping centers -- with concealed trash bins and pitched roofs -- to complement the aesthetics of nearby homes.

The citizens group also recommended that local leaders prohibit large outlet stores and 24-hour operations in the neighborhood commercial zones. Their recommendations will be addressed at a second workshop at City Hall on Oct. 1.

After that workshop, the commission could schedule another meeting, send the zoning text back to city planners for revision or forward their recommendations to the mayor and Common Council.

Local leaders are expected to vote on the language of the new zoning category this fall, after holding a public hearing and getting comments from residents.

Nearly a dozen people attended yesterday's workshop, which was held during the commission's monthly meeting. The commission did not invite public comment.

The new zoning category would be consistent with the city's comprehensive land-use plan, which was adopted June 22. The city's Comprehensive Plan 1998, the first in 13 years, resulted from more than a year's work by city planners and the Citizen Advisory Committee. The plan will be in effect for six years.

Three properties were identified in the comprehensive plan as possible sites for neighborhood commercial zones.

A 17-acre portion of the Koontz Farm, on the western edge of Westminster, is one of the properties that could be designated for this new brand of commercial development -- despite opposition by nearby residents. The site, across from Western Maryland College at Route 140, is zoned residential and permits construction of homes on half-acre lots.

The other two sites are a 1.8-acre parcel behind Westminster Veterinary Hospital and a nearby 20-acre lot. Both are on Route 31.

Pub Date: 9/11/98

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