2-year zoning freeze eyed

Proposal would slow development in most areas of county

Builders say they'll fight

Intent is to provide panels time to form comprehensive plan

February 09, 1999|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County Council is considering a two-year moratorium on rezoning land that would slow growth in about three-quarters of the county, and builders are pledging to fight the proposal.

Following the recommendation of County Executive Janet S. Owens, County Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr. submitted an emergency ordinance last week that the council is scheduled to discuss Thursday and vote on March 1.

The legislation would freeze the rezoning of land until the council, assisted by citizen advisory committees, completes a comprehensive rezoning of most of the county by the fall of 2000.

The bill introduced last Tuesday would prevent the county's land-use office from accepting any applications for rezonings dated between Dec. 31, 1998, and Dec. 31, 2000. It would not affect Brooklyn Park, Glen Burnie and the Pasadena peninsula.

Zoning on land in the northeastern section of the county is to be updated in 2001, and the council is expected to consider a moratorium for that area next year, said Richard Josephson, the county's administrator for long-range planning.

The County Council re-evaluates zoning designations countywide about once a decade. It puts moratoriums in place in the months before these efforts so landowners can't rush in and seek rezoning before the council decides what would be appropriate for those areas, county officials said.

"During the time that we are going to be considering a comprehensive rezoning of the county, we are going to suspend piecemeal rezonings," said Josephson. "It would be chaotic if a landowner were to apply for a rezoning while there is a general discussion going on about zoning in the whole area."

The county's land-use office will start unveiling maps of proposed rezonings for the central section of the county Feb. 24.

Those maps are expected to be similar to the current zoning maps, with some fine-tuning to reflect recommendations of volunteer committees of local residents who have been discussing the county's growth control for the last year, said John A. Morris, county land-use office spokesman.

One of the goals of the county's comprehensive rezoning effort is to put into law a long-term land-use plan approved by the council in 1997 designed to protect environmentally sensitive areas and cluster homes and businesses within walking distance of one another, Josephson said.

Susan Davies, co-director of government affairs for the Homebuilders Association of Maryland, said the proposed moratorium would last too long and covers too much of the county.

Davies said the county should wait about a year before it considers a moratorium for south county, west county and the area around Baltimore-Washington International Airport because the committees discussing these rezonings haven't started meeting yet.

"In general, the homebuilding industry does not like moratoriums, because they don't solve problems, they only delay them," Davies said.

Andrew C. Carpenter, spokesman for the county executive, said the moratorium itself would not prevent any project on land that already has proper zoning to move ahead.

"This is just a pause in the rezoning process to allow the small area plans [the citizen committees] to study their communities," Carpenter said.

Pamela Beidle, vice chairman of the County Council, said: "Sometimes we have to bite the bullet and make tough decisions. And I think the county needs to do a comprehensive rezoning instead of piecemeal rezonings."

Klosterman said the moratorium is a good idea because trying to update the county's overall zoning as individual landowners continue to apply for minor zoning changes "would be like trying to hit a moving target."

He added, however, that he is willing to discuss whether the moratorium should be smaller in size or more limited in duration.

Pub Date: 2/09/99

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