Zoning Board adopts development category


The Howard County Zoning Board voted to adopt one "environmental" zoning district but summarily rejected a denser one last night in its second work session on comprehensive rezoning of the eastern county.

The two new "residential-environmental development" (R-ED) zoning categories were proposed by county planners for comprehensive rezoning of the eastern county. The two districts are proposed to replace traditional half-acre and quarter-acre residential lot zoning on about 4,790 acres, most of it along the Patapsco River from Woodstock to Elkridge.

The two districts represent the largest change in acreage in the administration's proposal, which is modeled after the General Plan, a 20-year blueprint for growth adopted by the County Council in 1990.

Citing stiff community opposition to the denser of the two categories, R-ED3, which allow three houses per net acre of land, the board voted unanimously to strike it from new zoning regulations.

Members voted to approve regulations for the R-ED2 zoning category, which allows two houses per net acre of land.

County planners propose zoning about 4,320 acres as R-ED2, but the board has yet to discuss or vote on where to put the new zoning district.

Regulations for R-ED districts were criticized by several community groups as allowing developers to build more densely on environmentally sensitive areas than current zoning allows.

"I'm sad," Cathy Hudson, president of the Elkridge Community Association, said last night. "That will change the whole character of this neighborhood tremendously. I thought they had heard the people."

R-ED2 and R-ED3 would allow developers to build on smaller lots clustered around environmental areas such as steep slopes and flood plains. Town houses are permitted in the R-ED2 category, and small apartment buildings are permitted in the R-ED3 category.

The unanimous votes taken by County Council members, sitting as the Zoning Board, are not binding. The new zoning regulations will be final after county planners write a final draft and at least three of the five board members sign it.

The board is scheduled to meet again at 9 a.m. March 30 to continue deliberations on proposed changes to zoning regulations.

At 9 a.m. today in the George Howard county office building, the board will continue hearing testimony on another part of the comprehensive rezoning plan, mixed-use areas. Six mixed-use sites totaling 2,715 acres would combine residential, retail and commercial uses.

At 7:30 p.m. March 29, the board will hear further testimony on other proposed changes to the zoning map, such as the R-ED sites.

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