County seeks code update

Growth policies' revision would preclude another round of rezoning

December 31, 2006|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,SUN REPORTER

Harford officials plan to revamp county growth policies before taking a second crack at a countywide rezoning bill.

County Executive David R. Craig wants to see the zoning code updated for the first time in two decades to bring regulations in line with modern-day design standards. A code revision, which could take 18 months to two years, would preclude another round of comprehensive rezoning, which Craig vetoed in the spring.

"Our determination is to do the code first," said Roxanne Lynch, director of government and community relations. "We are really hoping we can come up with some great design standards."

Rezoning occurs in Harford every eight years, and the process was under way when Craig was appointed county executive in July 2005. Craig vetoed the bill after County Council members made amendments that he said allowed too much growth outside the county's designated development area, around Bel Air and along U.S. 40.

With Harford expected to swell by as many as 60,000 residents over the next decade as a result of expansion at Aberdeen Proving Ground, officials say the planning process is as important as ever.

"The last time the code was updated was in 1982, and obviously the county has seen a lot of change since that time. There's modern ideas out there that we need to embrace," said Chad Shrodes, a county planner who was elected to the council as a Republican last month.

The code revision is likely to reignite long-standing growth debates, such as the transfer of development rights on agriculturally zoned land - a practice that allows landowners to sell their development rights to another landowner. Builders also will expect to have a say in any changes to design standards and the development review process.

The revision could include recommendations made in 2003 by Builders for the Bay, a committee of builders, community leaders and environmental activists. The task force suggested changes that would increase flexibility in site design standards and promote the use of open space.

Lynch said the comprehensive rezoning process could begin again if a council member introduces the bill, but a majority of the members have said that they support a code revision.

Dru Schmidt-Perkins, of 1,000 Friends of Maryland, said the code update would allow planners to achieve their vision in the comprehensive rezoning process.

"One of the things we found out by looking at local land-use policies is that zoning often in no way represents what we want to see happen in our neighborhoods," she said. "There's all sorts of disconnect, and that often gets in the way of good planning."

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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