By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun
3:24 PM EST, January 7, 2012
Swim club property taxes and rural zoning matters are among the pieces of legislation being discussed by the Howard County Council this month.
County Councilwoman Courtney Watson is again pursuing a measure to aid six county nonprofit swim clubs whose operators say they are faced with high property taxes compared to pools operated by homeowners associations and the Columbia Association. Community swim club owners have argued that most of their pools face mounting debt because of high property taxes, as well as increased expenses to make much-needed improvements.
Watson's proposal, which was vetted by the county's planning board in November, would permit pool owners to sell their development rights directly to builders, under an existing county zoning regulation intended to preserve established neighborhoods. The sale of development rights would lower the swim club property's assessed values because the land could not be developed.
The development rights purchased by developers would permit them to increase the number of housing units in a new development in a different location by 10 percent.
The county adopted the preservation law to control density in older neighborhoods, where some lots were never developed.
Three of the five council members voted against a bill in July that would have established a tax credit for a half-dozen nonprofit swim clubs in the county.
The council will also hear two issues afflicting more rural parts of the county.
One piece of legislation would ease setback provisions for horse riding academies and stables.
The measure, proposed at the request of resident Viram Patel, would allow for the shorter distance of 100 feet between a riding practice area to a neighboring lot. A stable, which holds horses and therefore is used for longer periods of time, would have to be set at least 200 feet from a neighboring lot.
The county's planning board approved the recommendation last month.
Another zoning measure would loosen requirements for rural pick-your-own operations in the rural western part of the county by allowing farmers on smaller roads to have cut-your-own Christmas trees or pick-your-own produce operations.
Marsha S. McLaughlin, director of the department of planning and zoning, said that the measure would give farmers more opportunities to have pick-your-own operations. She said the amendment would help farmers in rural conservation preservation areas who are not on main roads.
McLaughlin added that the amendment would create agritourism opportunities and help farmers stay in business. "People like to go out and pick their own," she said.
The council will a public hearing on the legislation at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.
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