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News Maryland Howard County Ellicott City

Council approves bills on bullying, funding for homeless project

The Howard County Council approved legislation this week that will bring together groups to address bullying, and allows the county to apply for a grant to be used toward constructing an apartment complex for the chronically homeless in North Laurel.

The council also voted to again table the controversial Community Enhancement Floating (CEF) zoning district.

Howard County Council member Courtney Watson's bullying legislation became more county focused Jan. 7 after the council passed a trio of amendments.

Originally, the bill's intention was to encourage the General Assembly in Annapolis to provide the necessary resources to appropriate agencies to implement the use of multidisciplinary teams to address bullying, harassment and intimidation.

But an amendment filed by Watson instead asked the Howard County Public School System, the Howard County Mental Health Authority, the State's Attorney and the county administration to form this team. A separate resolution introduced by the council added Howard County Voices For Change, a youth organization, to the team to bring students' voices into the conversation.

While the bill does not require the county to form this team, County Executive Ken Ulman has agreed to bring the team together as part of his joint task force on school safety.

The council also approved a resolution allowing the county to move forward with applying for $700,000 in grant funding to redevelop Beechcrest Mobile Home Park.

The council voted 3-1 on the resolution, with council chairwoman Jen Terrasa dissenting. Mary Kay Sigaty was absent with the flu.

Council members said they were "disappointed" with how the county has informed the Beechcrest neighborhood about the project, and assured residents the process has just started. They also said the grant funding is not an endorsement of the proposed plans.

"Moving forward we can do a much better job," Council member Calvin Ball said of keeping the community informed.

The council voted unanimously to table the controversial Community Enhancement Floating (CEF) zoning district for a second time.

Proposed by the county's Department of Planning and Zoning, the CEF district is intended to allow property owners more flexibility in developing property by allowing zoning changes for parcels of land as small as two acres in some areas of the county.

Amendments to the bill include expanding the minimum acreage from two to five and eliminating the density exchange option. The council will continue to consider these amendments along with community comment this month.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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