Notice of zoning proposals required

County Council OKs bill telling property owners to notify their neighbors

July 07, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County Council agreed last night to give more notice to property owners whose neighbors are seeking the county's permission to change how they use their land.

Council voted 6-0 to require property owners to put up signs on their property alerting neighbors to the proposed zoning change and to mail out notices to anyone who owns adjoining land.

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat, abstained from voting on the measure, saying that it will be difficult to enforce it during the Comprehensive Rezoning Process, which begins next month.

The process, which occurs once every four years, takes 15 months, requires 14 public hearings and usually involves hundreds of requests for zoning changes filed by county planning officials, property owners and community groups.

County officials said that mailing out notices will cost the county about $40,000 over the next year.

But some council members said that the notice requirement is a necessity if community groups are to be kept informed about what is planned for their areas.

Democracy's high price

"Sometimes the price of democracy can be pretty high," said Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat.

Gardina said last night it will be difficult to ensure that all adjoining property owners are mailed notices, given that in the past some of the properties targeted for rezoning have been hundreds of acres in size and had dozens of neighbors.

"This just is not practical, it's not reasonable and it's not feasible," Gardina told the council.

Council last night also tabled a measure sponsored by Gardina that would have cut back the size of the planned Honeygo community in the White Marsh corridor by increasing lot sizes and trimming up to 500 homes from the project.

Gardina said the bill is intended to prevent overcrowding and improve the design of the community and the quality of its housing.

But the bill was tabled 4-3 on a motion by Moxley, after Gardina introduced a series of complicated amendments that addressed several issues in the bill.

Gardina, who was disappointed with the vote, said that he will reintroduce the measure at next month's council meeting and hopes to see it enacted in September.

"All I can say is, I would ask the people who live in this county to contact their representatives on the County Council and encourage them to pass this," Gardina said. "I did my part."

Increased lot size

Gardina's bill would extend the minimum lot width for a single-family home from 70 feet to 85 feet, increase the size of the rear yards, and require builders to use more brick and stone. It also would expand the minimum size of lots as a way to limit housing density, reducing the number of homes by 5 percent to 10 percent.

County officials already have imposed tough rules for Honeygo's developers, dictating the kinds of building materials that must be used, setting stringent design standards and requiring parks and landscaping.

In 1994, the first Honeygo plan reduced the number of houses permitted in the area from 11,000 under the previous zoning to 5,556. That number was cut to 4,800 in 1996 after the County Council eliminated some townhouses and apartments.

Developers and officials say Gardina's proposed changes will drive up prices in Honeygo, where the average price of a single-family home is already $270,000. That's more than $75,000 above the average price of a single-family home in Harford County.

But Gardina said that there are about 400 townhouses and hundreds of condominiums in Honeygo unaffected by his changes that sell for substantially less.

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