A Howard County councilman threatened last night to withdraw a key Zoning Board vote if the board's chairman refused to consider his proposal to require developers to create moderate-income housing in proposed mixed-use areas.
Councilman Paul Farragut, a West Columbia Democrat, made the threat during a work-session discussion of a proposed mixed-use zoning category.
Part of the county's eastern comprehensive rezoning, the proposed category would allow a mix of houses, apartments, shops and businesses in six sites.
Zoning Board Chairman C. Vernon Gray had said he would not revisit last week's 3-2 vote that established maximum residential densities of three units per acre in large mixed-use areas and six units per acre in those of 75 acres and smaller.
After Mr. Farragut said he would withdraw his support -- which would in effect kill the densities approved last week -- Mr. Gray agreed to consider Mr. Farragut's proposal at a later work session.
Mr. Farragut, who voted for those densities, proposed last night requiring developers who build more than 2.3 residential units per acre to sell 5 percent of the units as moderately priced housing. If developers build more than 2.7 units per acre, the requirement would be 10 percent.
Mr. Farragut noted that the density of Columbia is just above 2.3 residential units per acre, and "anything beyond that's really a generous density bonus. If you get beyond that, you really ought to give something back."
Mr. Gray said he did not understand the proposal, but did see it as changing the July 7 work-session decision on densities. The decision does not become final until a majority of the board members sign the package of zoning regulations.
Mr. Farragut said the county needs more residences, now in short supply, that public servants such as teachers and firefighters can afford.
"I think the problem could get worse in the future as we continue to build single-family houses," he told the Zoning Board.
Members of the council serve as the Zoning Board.
Mr. Farragut's proposal won an initial vote of confidence from Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, a Democrat who represents the county's southwestern edge.
"It's moving in the right direction," said Ms. Pendergrass, who with Councilman Darrel Drown, an Ellicott City Republican, favored a maximum mixed-use density at or lower than Columbia's.
When Mr. Farragut said he would withdraw his vote on the density limits, Ms. Pendergrass asked the chairman, "So we don't have a density. How are you going to deal with that?"
Mr. Gray said the comprehensive rezoning process, which began last October, needed to move forward.
The board would have wrapped up its deliberations on proposed zoning regulations last night, were it not for the new proposal. The board considered some changes to the zoning map last night, but must still hold one more public hearing -- at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the George Howard county office building -- and additional work sessions.
The process is not expected to be completed until the fall.
In their deliberations on zoning map changes last night, the board voted unanimously to approve the plan's largest proposed change.
That change would convert about 1,700 acres of rural-zoned land along the Patapsco River from Woodstock to Elkridge to "residential-environmental development." The category allows two homes per acre clustered to avoid features such as steep slopes and flood plains.
The board also approved zoning for a 682-acre project called Waverly Woods II in Marriottsville and Woodstock. The project would be developed much like a mixed-use area, although it is not zoned mixed-use.