Harford council fails to override veto of zoning bill


The Harford County Council failed last night to override County Executive David R. Craig's veto of a contentious rezoning bill, despite expressing uncertainty about the how the county will move forward on the issue.

Under the county's zoning code guidelines, Craig's veto washes away the past 15 months of planning, said Council President Robert S. Wagner. The rezoning process - which allows property owners to appeal every eight years for changes in how their land is used - would have to be restarted from the beginning.

Administration officials are hopeful that a change in the zoning code will allow the county executive and council to negotiate a compromise using the applications and testimony submitted during the current rezoning process. Craig has said he would like to see a new bill that grants less new development along Route 22 or outside of the county's designated growth area.

Despite their 5-1 vote in favor of the rezoning bill last month after making more than 50 changes to the package, three of the six voting council members (the seventh is on active military duty) expressed a willingness to work with Craig and voted to uphold the veto. Five votes are necessary to override a veto.

"If we work together, perhaps we can come up with a bill that will satisfy the needs of everyone," said Councilwoman Veronica L. "Roni" Chenowith, a Republican from Fallston.

Republican Councilman Richard C. Slutzky, who could see two of his controversial amendments in the Churchville area squeezed out of a new bill, said he has heard from many landowners and lawyers who say changes to the zoning code could land the county in court.

"My informed opinion ... is that trying to bring back a bill without going through the comprehensive process is illegal and will be challenged in court," Slutzky said.

Dissatisfaction with the comprehensive rezoning process has been far-reaching. Last night, Councilman Dion F. Guthrie, a Democrat from Joppatowne, said he would seek to establish a task force to study new ways to conduct the process.

Friends of Harford, an activist group whose members have orchestrated referendums in the past, said they applaud the veto but will monitor the formation of a new bill with a watchful eye.


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