The County Council seemed uncertain Monday whether it was asking questions or giving answers to a commission it recently appointed to study rural residential land use.

A three-page document compiled by council member Paul Farragut, D-4th, on behalf of his colleagues posedthree questions for the commission to answer. Three of the seven commission members were present during Monday's council work session, when the position paper was discussed.

The document asked whether:

* Western Howard County lends itself to development "under the village concept as visualized in the 1990 General Plan."

* Agriculture can be expected to survive in its current state of development.

* Residential clustering should be used as a tool to preserve land and provide open space.

To some, thequestions seemed designed to lead the commission to conclusions.

Council member Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, objected to the question about residential clustering, saying it seemed to "undo" the 1990 General Plan mandate for residential clustering in certain circumstances.

Charles Feaga, R-5th, who represents the portion of the county thecommission will be studying, told Pendergrass he was "not afraid" tohave the commission question General Plan dogma. And council chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, told Pendergrass the General Plan is merelya guideline.

"We did maybe 60 percent" of the General Plan in the1985 comprehensive rezoning of the county and "probably won't get tomore than 50 percent" in the next comprehensive rezoning, Gray said.

Regardless, the council agreed to alter the clustering question from "should residential clustering be used," to "how should residential clustering be used?"

The Farragut document made three assumptions about clustering that Joseph W. Rutter Jr., acting director of theDepartment of Planning and Zoning, said would prejudice the commission's findings.

The council solved that problem by changing the assumptions to goals.

Instead of assuming that clustering "promotes environmentally sound site design," "permits greater economical use ofa site," and "preserves more open space and agricultural land," those things now become goals of clustering.

Council member Darrel Drown, R-2nd, had other goals as well: to save land in the east by transferring development rights to the west and to cluster businesses along the Interstate 70 corridor.

Pendergrass cautioned Drown against using the phrase, "transfer of development rights," saying it had been used in the past to mean preserving land in the west by increasing densities in the east. Both she and Drown want to do just the opposite, she said.

The council agreed to ask the commission to find out how much land "could or should be saved, if any, by transferring development rights to the west."

The council also went along with Drown's other suggestion and directed the commission to "recommend the extent to which any shopping or business zoning should be clustered along the I-70 corridor."

In addition, the commission was asked to determine the "optimum" size for a successful village in terms of acreage, population and residential density.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad