Council ponders rezoning changes

Members are to submit amendments to bill today

Public hearing is set for Jan. 20

More than 3,000 acres could be affected

Howard County

December 31, 2003|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Some Howard County residents might be picking their resolutions today for next year, but their councilmen are considering changes that will affect the county for the next decade - and are legally binding.

Members of the County Council will submit amendments to the comprehensive rezoning bill by today's 2 p.m. filing deadline.

The council will hear testimony on amendments to the bill, which details zoning changes to more than 3,000 acres, at a public hearing Jan. 20. If no new amendments are introduced, members could vote on the bill at their legislative session Feb. 2.

It is all part of the rezoning process, undertaken every 10 years to rethink the future of development within rapidly growing Howard County.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Wednesday's Howard County edition of The Sun about amendments to the comprehensive rezoning bill incorrectly listed the types of uses permitted in the proposed "residential senior-institutional" zoning district. It would allow senior housing, religious facilities and community centers such as the YMCA. The YMCA can expand under the proposed residential zoning but would have to apply for conditional-use permission. The Sun regrets the error.

Some proposed changes required compromises with property owners, county residents and among council members.

"I don't want to see any one proposal hold up the final passage for another month," said council Chairman Guy Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat.

As a result, "I may introduce some amendments as the chair - not things that I necessarily am pushing for, but things to allow the vote to move forward in a timely manner," he said.

He is submitting a change that would create an institutional overlay zone for the YMCA in Ellicott City, which can continue to operate under the proposed residential zoning but cannot pursue its planned expansion. However, in case the council votes in favor of a different zone for that property, Guzzone has submitted an amendment as chairman to switch it and adjacent properties to "residential-senior institutional" that permits senior housing and offices.

Other councilmen said they also submitted amendments specifically to allow flexibility in further talks.

"Several of my amendments are almost contradictory," said western Howard Republican Allan H. Kittleman. He described two he planned to submit for the same parcel - a former car dealership at Route 108 and Ten Oaks Road.

Kittleman suggested a designation of "planned office research," which would allow senior housing, offices, banks and restaurants, and "community center transition district," which would allow senior housing, religious facilities and some commercial uses.

West Columbia Democrat Ken Ulman said he also plans to file an amendment for less-intense business zoning for that parcel, to prohibit a gas station or car dealership.

Ultimately, not every amendment will be introduced. But they will allow the councilmen to consider options during work sessions at the end of the month, Kittleman said.

He did not want to "tie the council's hands when we get to vote in February or get to the work sessions," he said. "If there aren't any amendments with options, we might as well not meet."

Some communities are negotiating with property owners and developers. "If we don't put in an amendment, they don't have any leverage," Kittleman said.

Kittleman also plans to submit an amendment to consider two parcels at Route 144 and U.S. 40 as part of the Route 40 Enhancement Study. The bill now calls for townhouse zoning for several parcels.

"I don't know if that's right for the whole area," Kittleman said.

Ellicott City Republican Christopher J. Merdon said he was planning about 18 amendments to zoning maps and the text of the zoning code.

He described scheduling requirements he will propose for construction of the commercial component of some of the county's new mixed-use zones. In the corridor activity center district, for example, Merdon said one amendment would require that the timing of commercial construction coordinate with building 50 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent of the residential units.

"The whole purpose of us giving residential units for some of these properties is to make these projects financially feasible," he said.

But, Merdon added, it is the commercial tax base that will help support the cost of services that residents of these new units will require.

"We don't want developers to do all their residential and 10 years later" start building commercial, he said. "I want these projects to help pay for themselves."

Ulman said he is planning several changes, including an amendment to keep the corner of Freetown Road, near Hickory Ridge Village Center, zoned for clustered homes. Residents opposed a request for commercial zoning.

"We're going to leave it residential and go from there," he said. "It's an example of citizens getting really active and energized and stating their case, and I agree with them."

He, Guzzone and east Columbia Democrat David A. Rakes are co-sponsoring an amendment for new town zoning that would allow the Zoning Board, rather than the appointed members of the Planning Board, to review changes proposed for the comprehensive sketch plan in Columbia's Town Center.

"I think the redevelopment and new development warrant an elevated level of attention by the Zoning Board, which is the elected body in this process," Ulman said.

Rakes said he is also considering amendments for several sites in addition to rethinking his position on a proposal to rezone Aladdin Village mobile home park on U.S. 1. Development of the site, which park owners said could take as many as five years to begin, would displace residents of its 241 units.

It will give them an opportunity to rethink their choice of housing and be able to move and remain within the county, Rakes said.

"For the short term, we should make sure they know they have a place to live," he said.

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