Housing, revitalization focus of Howard draft

Long-term blueprint for growth is released

April 08, 2000|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

Howard County Executive James N. Robey released a draft of the county's 2000 General Plan yesterday that proposes lower housing goals, stronger environmental protection and revitalization of older communities.

Although it calls for no expansion of public water and sewer service to accommodate additional growth in the western part of the county, it does leave open the possibility of expansion in "isolated occurrences where minor adjustments may be appropriate," according to a news release issued yesterday.

The General Plan, released every 10 years, will serve as a blueprint for growth over the next 20 years.

"The biggest change in this plan really doesn't deal with growth, although that's what most people want to talk about," said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., head of the county's Department of Planning and Zoning. "It's going to be about revitalization of corridors and sustainability. I think there can be some really exciting stuff going on in these older communities."

In community meetings about the General Plan several weeks ago, the most controversial topic was expansion of the public sewer and water district, also known as the Planned Service Area. But at least one person opposed to expansion is happy with the draft.

Peter Oswald, a member of the General Plan Task Force, said Robey warned panel members that the county might need to make "minor adjustments" to the public sewer and water district. To his knowledge, he said, nobody seemed concerned by that.

"There may be certain communities where there is a problem with ground water, and it may be appropriate in those locations," Oswald said.

"This is real minor," Rutter said. "For the purposes of growth, just accommodating new growth, no, it doesn't leave it open for that."

The Howard County Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the draft plan at 7: 30 p.m. May 8 in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City. After that meeting, revisions will be made before the County Council's review.

Highlights include:

Lowering the proposed construction of housing units from the current 2,500 units a year to 2,000 a year through 2005; 1,500 a year from 2006 to 2015; and 1,000 a year from 2016 to 2020.

Emphasis on maintenance and reinvestment incentives to help preserve older neighborhoods.

A limit on growth in the western part of the county to 250 housing units a year.

A first-time proposal to set aside 250 allocations for senior citizen housing in the eastern part of the county to encourage market rate housing for seniors.

Stronger environmental enforcement.

Renewal of agricultural preservation efforts.

More affordable housing. Strengthening regional focus by working with the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and the Washington Council of Governments.

The 2000 draft calls for monitoring the plan to make sure officials are doing a good job.

"One of the criticisms of the 1990 General Plan was that you don't wait 10 years and then say, `How did you do?' " Rutter said. He said that although his department will do the reviews, the targets will be "objectively measurable."

Reference copies of the draft are available at county libraries and in the Department of Planning and Zoning in the George Howard Building. The draft will be available on the county's Web site next week at www.co.ho.md.us.

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