County Council scheduled to vote on growth tiers bill

The Howard County Council heard from residents last week describing how damaging the implementation of state-required growth tiers would be for farmers in western Howard County, particularly one that will limit development rights by requiring agricultural preservation.

The state is requiring counties to designate land as one of four "Growth Tiers" by Dec. 31. Development levels range from Tier I, which is the most developed with public services, to Tier IV, which is zoned for agriculture and conservation.


Howard County farmers argued before the County Council, which is scheduled to vote on a proposed growth tiers map Monday, Dec. 3, that designating their property Tier IV will eliminate much of the land's value because they no longer would have the option of selling it for development.

But on Monday, Nov. 26, an official from the state Department of Planning said his office would like to see the county follow the law more closely than it is proposing by designating more property in the Tier IV category.

"What we are saying is, we're looking for the county to adhere to the bill as is," said Rich Josephson, Director of Planning Services with the state Department of Planning.

Marsha McLaughlin, Howard County Director of Planning and Zoning, said the proposed map by the County Council is a "good compromise" between the state's priority to limit major subdivisions in rural conservation districts and the county's goal to protect investments in the western area of the county.

The proposed map outlines Tier III as properties currently designated as rural residential with Tier IV including properties zoned rural conservation.

McLaughlin said it will be up to the state to approve whether the county plan fits the bill.

Josephson said he expects at least half of state jurisdictions to approve a tier map by the end of the year.

If a municipality does not approve a tier map by the Dec. 31 deadline, the Department of Planning will report back to the General Assembly, which would decide how to proceed.

Bullying legislation to be tabled

County Council member Courtney Watson announced Nov. 26 that she will ask her fellow council members to table her proposed legislation that would encourage the General Assembly to provide the necessary resources to appropriate agencies to implement the use of multidisciplinary teams to address bullying, harassment and intimidation among students.

Watson said she would like the legislation tabled to allow more time for all parties, including the Board of Education, to discuss her proposal further.

"I really feel we should go back to them and get their full support before we would move something like this forward," she said, referencing the school board's recent 4-4 vote on whether to support Watson's resolution.

Watson also has forwarded her resolution to colleagues in Baltimore City and Baltimore and Montgomery counties to be considered for approval by those councils.