Growth curbs OK'd by council

Compromise measure aimed at open space, building of roads

`Better than what we had'

June 08, 1999|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

After months of debate, the Howard County Council unanimously approved last night a bill that members hope will ensure that vital roads and recreational facilities will be provided on time for large, village-style developments -- without regulating them into oblivion.

The vote, coming after consideration of a series of amendments in a nearly empty council chamber, confirmed a compromise reached at a work session last week.

The three freshman members showed their muscle, influencing votes on several amendments and together rejecting one supported by the two veteran members, Mary C. Lorsung and chairman C. Vernon Gray, both Columbia Democrats. That change would have relegated a fiscal impact statement required for each development to informational status.

"The bottom line is the county will use the [fiscal] information appropriately," said the bill's sponsor, Guy J. Guzzone, a Laurel-Savage Democrat.

"I'm pleased this is here," Republican Allan H. Kittleman, a freshman from the western county, said after the final vote on the amended bill. "This [controlling growth] is something most of us campaigned on."

Richard B. Talkin, attorney for a Pikesville developer whose proposal for building a large community on the Iager Farm in Fulton is the only one the bill would affect for now, watched the vote and declined to comment.

The final bill's two key provisions ease the original measure's requirements for road construction and recreational open space. Instead of requiring that roads be completed before building plans are approved, the bill allows work to progress if road funding is included in the county capital budget or the state's transportation plan. If the governments fail to provide road money for three straight years, a builder may proceed in the fourth year. And instead of requiring that 30 percent of open space be usable for active recreation, the final version requires 10 percent.

"This one amendment [on roads] is sort of the main event," Guzzone said before voting. "From day one, it was my intention to allow citizens to know their quality of life won't be harmed" by large new projects.

Revisions came after county officials and developers said they feared the original bill was so tough it would make so-called mixed-use developments impossible to build. Lorsung said last night that she shares that view.

County planners, who value the mixed-use developments for their flexibility and their potential to create self-sufficient communities with jobs, shopping and homes in the same place, recommended changes in February.

Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr.'s staff recommended lowering the recreational open space to 10 percent and requiring that funding for roads be budgeted before each phase of a planned project is approved, the basic compromise eventually adopted.

Although Guzzone had opposed a large Rouse Co. mixed-use development in his district, his bill was approved too late to affect it. Instead, the bill would cover the less advanced proposal to develop the 1,168-home Iager Farm property five miles farther west along Route 216.

"I'm resolved and accepting of where we are," Guzzone said before the vote yesterday. "The bottom line is, it's better than what we had," he said.

"You always want the idea in your mind to pass. Sometimes, it isn't possible," Guzzone said.

The planned Rouse Co. community will include 1,145 homes, 1.2 million square feet of employment space and 100,000 square feet of commercial space on 517 acres along Route 216 and Interstate 95.

Iager Farm developer Stuart Greenebaum and his company's attorneys assailed the original bill at a council public hearing in April, saying it would kill his proposal and make similar developments "unfeasible" in Howard County. Under the final version approved last night, part of Greenebaum's project could be delayed up to four years because a key interchange at Hopkins Road and U.S. 29 is not funded.

Guzzone said the final version of the bill will delay only that phase of the project, however.

Rutter said the state has promised funding for the interchange, but it might not come until 2003.

Pub Date: 6/08/99

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