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Council approves amended zoning for Normandy

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The Howard County Council Monday unanimously voted to approve a zoning amendment ushering forward the redevelopment of the Normandy Shopping Center in Ellicott City.

The Council also voted at its monthly legislative session to approve changes to the county's agriculture preservation program, while moving to table legislation that would create a stormwater fee.

Normandy Venture Limited Partnership, the owner of Normandy Shopping Center, asked the council to amend its Traditional Neighborhood Center (TNC) zoning allowing for taller buildings with reduced setbacks and reducing the amount of commercial space a developer is required to build in relation to residential space.

The (TNC) zoning overlay was created during comprehensive rezoning in 2003 and is intended to entice developers to build centers with a mix of retail, service, office and residential buildings along Route 40. Normandy is the first property in the county to be given the TNC zoning.

Normandy Venture wants to redevelop the county's oldest shopping center with a 274-unit apartment complex and garage, and office and retail space.

But nearby residents have said they are not against the redevelopment of Normandy, but argue that the amended regulation would allow developers to bypass renovating existing commercial space while allowing for too much residential space.

Council member Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat whose district includes Normandy, proposed five amendments to the zoning regulation. All were approved by the council.

Amendments included changing the height limit from 65 feet to 62 feet, removing dumpsters from the 30-foot setback option and clarifies that existing commercial space must be renovated to the requirements of new commercial construction.

"Amendment four makes it crystal clear and air tight that any existing space that's renovated as part of this TNC zone, while new space is being developed, is renovated according to the design guidelines in the TNC district," Watson said.

Additional amendments to the bill approved by the council denied a proposal to reduce the amount of commercial space required to be built in relation to residential space and clarified what recreation facilities are permitted in the zoning.

Enrollment for ag preservation to open in May

Property owners affected by the recent growth tiers decision that are interested in applying for the county's agriculture preservation program are expected to be able to do so in early May, according to Director of the county's Department of Planning and Zoning Marsha McLaughlin.

The Council unanimously approved a bill modifying the county's agriculture preservation program after a 30-minute debate on an amendment that gutted a major provision in the bill. The amendment was also unanimously approved.

One month after approving controversial land preservation legislation with the provision that the county expand its agriculture preservation program, the county proposed giving the Department of Planning and Zoning the ability to purchase development rights and sell them to the highest bidder creating a revolving funding source for the program.

The county proposed the measure in case a large number of property numbers apply for the preservation program in the wake of the growth tiers designation, according to McLaughlin.

The amendment to the bill, proposed by Jen Terrasa, a Columbia Democrat, eliminated the county's ability to sell development rights from the bill.

While a major aspect of the bill was eliminated, the county is now able to begin enrolling property owners in the agriculture preservation program by early May, McLaughlin said.

If the council had not approved the legislation, property owners recently designated as Tier IV in the growth tiers decision would have had to wait until June or July to enroll in the program.

Council member Greg Fox, the council's lone Republican, produced an amendment during the discussion that would allow the county to sell development rights, but council members were reluctant to act on an amendment proposed the night of a legislative session. However, they did indicate they would consider Fox's proposal and possibly bring it back for consideration as soon as this month.

The Council voted unanimously to table proposed legislation creating a stormwater fee.

The Watershed Protection and Restoration Program signed into law last year requires counties to collect fees to pay for stormwater management and stream and wetland restoration projects. The projects are aimed at improving water quality and reducing phosphorous and nitrogen levels entering the Chesapeake Bay.

All property owners, except state and local government and volunteer fire companies, will be required to pay the fee, which will be a separate item on the property tax bill starting in 2014.

Despite predominantly positive testimony from the public on the county's proposed stormwater fee, council members have said they would like more time to ensure it is fairly implemented.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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