County goes forward in reform of land-use laws

Proposed rule changes to streamline process are released for comment

July 01, 2004|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County officials took a second major step yesterday in their overhaul of local land-use laws, releasing proposed rule changes that they say would streamline the approval process for residential and commercial developments.

The changes, coupled with revisions to the zoning code released this year, are designed to simplify laws known in the building community for their unclear and sometimes contradictory language.

"A clear statement of the development standards and a predictable process is essential for an efficient and effective planning operation," said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., the county's planning and zoning officer.

"Professionals in the land development business, and citizens who are interested in development, will now be able to find all the requirements in one document instead of flipping back and forth between the zoning regulations and the subdivision code to find the correct set of requirements for land development," he said.

Rutter promised major revisions to the land-use codes when he took over the planning department in 2002. County Executive Janet S. Owens has supported his reform efforts.

"My expectation is that this legislation, coupled with the recent reorganization of the planning office, will reduce the uncertainty embodied in the current code and reduce the time it takes for a customer to secure development approval for a project," Owens said in a statement. "We hope this will address much of the confusion and ambiguity while benefiting all citizens."

The subdivision rules were last revised in 1969.

Affected by proposal

Changes to the subdivision regulations would affect the layout, physical traits and pacing of new projects, not the amount of development allowed in the county. Therefore, Rutter said, he does not expect much contention over the proposed changes.

Under one proposed change, projects would have to meet adequacy standards for road, school, water and sewer capacity at the beginning of the county review process rather than at the end. The adequacy standards would be applied to some office and commercial projects that are exempt from them under current law.

In another significant proposed change, developers would have to set aside 30 percent of a residential subdivision as open space. The county now requires an amount of open space per lot.

Of all the proposed changes, Rutter said the open space requirement might draw the most resistance. "I think some developers will have concerns about the open space, because they won't be certain how they will accommodate it," he said.

The proposed changes also outline specific requirements for building in the county's designated town centers in Glen Burnie, Odenton and Parole. The requirements for such areas would not change much, but would be more clearly set aside than they are in the current code, Rutter said.

Several developers reached for comment yesterday said that they will have to spend a few weeks reviewing the proposed changes before offering opinions.

Taking public comment

The county is accepting public comment on the proposed revisions, which can be viewed at cfm or purchased at the county land-use office, 2664 Riva Road in Annapolis.

Rutter said he expects to introduce the proposed changes to the County Council late next month or in early September.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.