The County Council last week asked an ad hoc citizens' commission todetermine by June 15 whether western Howard County lends itself to development under a village concept and to recommend a way to cluster residences to preserve farmland.

To help the commission along, thecouncil gave it a three-page set of goals and guidelines.

It asked, for example, that the commission determine the ideal size for a successful village and evaluate future road, school and public safety needs if a village is created.

In addition to the council guidelines, council Chairman C. Vernon Gray gave the Rural Residential Land Use Study Commission his own two-page list of questions about villages and clustering, calling it "strategies to be explored."

Gray's list and the council list addressed many of the same concerns, such as whether residents of Clarksville, Dayton, Highland and Lisbon want to see those communities developed as villages.

If they are, the zoning would have to be changed to allow several homes to be clustered together on small lots adjacent to large lots of 20 acres ormore that would be preserved as open space, park land or used for agricultural purposes.

The seven-member commission was appointed Jan. 7 in accordance with a directive from the 1990 General Plan.

Thedirective says the commission's task is to find a method of clustering development that would "discourage urban sprawl, permanently preserve significant amounts of open space in an environmentally sensitivemanner, and be located in areas where water and waste can be efficiently and effectively managed without the extension of public water and sewer facilities."

After hearing from the council Wednesday night, the commission elected Daisy resident Ted Mariani chairman. The commission agreed to meet every Wednesday night from Feb. 27 to May 1 to gather information.

Mariani directed the county Department of Planning and Zoning to prepare a land inventory of the western portion of the county and bring it to next week's meeting along with the department's preliminary plans for comprehensive rezoning.

The following week, Mariani expects the commission to hear a report from former planning director Uri Avin on the statewide zoning proposal known informally as the Chesapeake Bay 2020 plan.

Following the May 1 work session, the commission will conduct two community meetings -- at least one will be at the fairgrounds -- to allow affected residents to comment on the committee's findings, Mariani said.

After hearing from the community, the committee will make whatever changes are neededand present its report to the council June 15, Mariani said.

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