Changes offered on rezoning requests

140 amendments filed to bill

testimony to be heard Jan. 20

Howard County

January 07, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Howard County councilmen have filed more than 140 amendments to a comprehensive rezoning bill that will continue the discussion about future development of more than 3,000 acres until a vote next month.

The bill represents more than 170 requests to change zoning, mostly in eastern Howard. Council members will hear testimony Jan. 20 on changes that have not been discussed at previous hearings. They hope to vote on the bill at their legislative session Feb. 2.

Many of the amendments were submitted to allow council members flexibility in considering changes to some areas. Nine of them detailed possibilities for land across from Long Gate Shopping Center on Montgomery Road in Ellicott City.

Residents in the neighborhood want the property to remain residential to check the spread of commercial development in their community.

Chris Pippen, a developer working with several property owners along that stretch, said he wants a simple solution. "There should not be a checkerboard of zoning," he said.

"You can end up creating setbacks where the properties are completely unusable," Pippen said later.

Other proposed amendments to the text of the zoning code address changes to Montgomery Road. They include limiting the height of senior housing to four stories in the residential senior-institutional zone, which would also allow religious facilities and community centers such as the YMCA.

Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City-Elkridge Republican, said he submitted amendments that would limit the density of senior housing to eight units an acre, restrict the height of buildings to 20 feet and remove any mention of apartments from the text because residents have said that traffic in the area is oppressive.

"Putting high-density housing there is not going to help the situation," Merdon said.

Southern Howard Democrat Guy Guzzone has said he submitted amendments as council chairman that would allow the council to discuss and hear testimony about applications that were received by the Dec. 15 filing deadline.

Guzzone also submitted more than 10 amendments to map changes at the request of County Executive James N. Robey, including several to correct errors.

One amendment would keep property at U.S. 40 and Old Frederick Road in Ellicott City zoned for single-family homes. The land, across from Kiwanis-Wallas Park, was erroneously listed in the original bill for townhouse zoning, according to the amendment's description.

Rezoning decisions for other properties along U.S. 40 were postponed until the county's Department of Planning and Zoning completes its Route 40 Enhancement Study in the fall.

Although the majority of the five councilmen voted during work sessions in favor of a plan for townhouses on two of those properties, Marsha McLaughlin, the county planning director, said the administration is "going to hold our ground."

Western Howard Republican Allan H. Kittleman submitted an amendment to keep the properties zoned for single-family homes and to return them to consideration during the U.S. 40 study.

East Columbia Democrat David A. Rakes and west Columbia Democrat Ken Ulman submitted amendments to allow up to eight units of housing for seniors on land in the west zoned B-2, a retail district.

Ulman said he limited his amendment to parcels larger than 4 acres to ensure that it was economically feasible for developers to provide amenities such as a community center.

Twenty percent to 30 percent of the county's approximately 1,000 acres of B-2 land is in the west, said Jeff Bronow, chief of the research division in the Department of Planning and Zoning. Most of those parcels are relatively large, he said.

Ulman said his amendment is for a parcel next to the Lisbon shopping center, where the owners want to construct senior housing "in sort of the village center mold."

"For me, it makes sense to ... be able to locate seniors there, especially out west, where there are fewer opportunities for senior housing," he said.

Ulman and Guzzone also expanded a request to rezone one parcel along Waterloo Road and Route 108, south of Route 100, to planned office research, which permits uses including offices, senior housing, banks and restaurants.

"To me, it made more sense as a buffer," Ulman said. "[Planned office research] there didn't strike me as intrusive as it might in other areas."

Rakes also said he would withdraw an amendment that would release the former Exxon station near Oakland Mills Village Center from Columbia's zoning restrictions.

The site, where developers want to construct a 96-unit, moderate-income senior complex, was part of the petition to increase Columbia's density from 2.35 to 2.5 units an acre.

The zoning board's decision at its Monday work session to remove plans for the senior housing complex from the larger density petition made the amendment unnecessary, Rakes said.

McLaughlin said she is "not at all supportive at this point in time [of] rezoning pieces of Columbia that are part of all the new town calculations."

"I think that just cutting holes in Columbia to make zoning changes has a lot of ramifications" for the Rouse Co. and the county, she said.

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