Changing the rules in the west

Speakout!

Your Opinions

Thoughts on issues relating to Howard County

August 07, 2005

Last week's issue: Howard County planners, under pressure from state agricultural preservation officials, have proposed tighter development controls on rurally zoned farmland in western Howard County. Some landowners have complained, saying that changing zoning rules would rob them of their land's value.

Do you think the county should make the changes that would help preserve farmland and slow development in the western county?

Negative impact seen on quality of life

The excessive pace of residential development in western Howard County has a substantial negative impact on the infrastructure, school system, environment, property values and quality of life for the vast majority of the affected residents. The fact that a few developers and farm owners would not be able to "cash-in" is of no concern to the majority of the county's constituents.

Curt Rasmussen

Glenwood

Erroneous data put forth by county

Your framing of the question -- "Do you think the County should make the changes that would help preserve farmland and slow development in the western county?" -- assumes and adopts the erroneous information being put forth by the Howard County Department of Planning & Zoning ("DPZ"). The 2000 Howard County General Plan sets forth a goal of 30,000 acres in agricultural preservation and other non-buildable easements by the time that the next General Plan is created, in 2010.

The County has already achieved easements on over 25,000 acres. Roughly 12,000 acres are left uncommitted in the West. By DPZ's own admission at the public meeting on Aug. 2, about 9,000 of those acres would end up under some sort of preservation or non-buildable easement if nothing is changed. Therefore, contrary to DPZ's assertions, the County will easily meet the goal set forth in the 2000 General Plan. Furthermore, we are only halfway through the period that the 2000 General Plan covers, and the County has achieved 83 percent of its goal in preservation acreage.

The County's complaint that it hasn't been able to purchase easements and has $12 million left unspent is illustrative of the fact that it does not understand the market. Instead of complaining, County officials should be rejoicing that the private market has alleviated the need for the County to buy easements. If the County really wants to preserve farmland, it needs to create a real market for the sending parcels, which can easily be done by tying new density allocations in all districts to buying preservation easements.

Developers and owners who have received and will receive density increases would not object to purchasing preservation easements in the West in order to receive increased densities for their projects. The State Secretary of Planning has reacted positively to such suggestions, although the County DPZ has refused to even consider this obvious option. The problem is one of DPZ's own making and is contrary to the existing General Plan (page 40). This proposed regulation change is simply being done for political reasons without regard to fairness or necessity.

E. Alexander Adams

Glenwood

Drop development units from rural west

I am in favor of tighter development controls on the rurally zoned farmland. However, one of the proposals from the Howard County government is to transfer approximately 100 units from that rural area to the East area of Howard County. This area is already overburdened with numerous trailers at school sites and horrendous traffic problems at State and local intersections.

And if it is "Smart Growth" to develop where the facilities are adequate, the East is not it. Is it "smart" to continue to increase density when the problems I stated are obvious to all who live here? Does "Smart Growth" have anything to do with "quality of life"?

My suggestion is to eliminate the 100 units altogether in the rural west and not feel obligated to the developers who are waiting to put their hands on the farmers' sites for their own aggrandizement.

Angela Beltram

Ellicott City

Timing and speed are being questioned

Like others present at the Aug. 2 meeting at Glenelg High School, I question both the timing of these massive down-zoning changes and the speed with which DPZ is proceeding. Much of the statistical data presented to justify DPZ's plan is flawed. The vast majority of attendees at this "forum," whether small-acreage landowners, farmers, or those such as myself already in a preservation program, share my opinion. Why the speed and why the change in what was addressed in the last General Plan? What is the real agenda?

Betty Smith Adams

Glenwood

A politically motivated scheme

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