County residents expressed concerns at a public hearing last night about proposed changes to zoning regulations that would allow larger houses on small lots and shorten the public notification requirement on rezoning hearings.
The proposals are included in a bill that would make the first major modifications to the county's zoning law since 1985.
Several representatives of community organizations complained that they hadn't had adequate time to study the bill to take a position on it. In response, Council Chairman David G. Boschert said there will be another public hearing on the issue Dec. 20.
James R. Martin Jr., president of the Severn River Association, expressed reservations about a proposal to allow smaller setbacks in front, back and on the sides so that a larger house can be built on lots smaller than is currently allowed.
"It seems counterproductive, in our opinion, to make some of these changes," he said. He particularly disliked a proposal that would permit a 7-foot yard on either side of a house, and another that would allow the house to cover 40 percent of the lot. Now it can cover only 30 percent.
County officials argued that the proposed changes would not create any new lots but would only allow the owner of a 10,000-square-foot lot -- in a neighborhood zoned for 40,000-square-foot lots -- to build a house that would be 36 feet wide instead of 30 feet wide as allowed under existing regulations. Under current law, an owner of such a small lot would have to apply for a variance -- usually routinely granted -- from the county's administrative hearing officer.
"It just gives us a little more flexibility and avoids putting people in a two- or three-month variance process," Richard B. Josephson, the county's planning and zoning administrator, said.
But several representatives of community associations fretted about increased density.
"We are very concerned with the side-yard setbacks of 7 feet on either side," said John R. Moses, representing Arundel on the Bay. "We think that will just deteriorate our community."
Mike Bridgland of Millersville did not like a proposal that would shorten notification for a rezoning hearing from two weeks to one.
Mr. Josephson said the proposal was suggested by the administrative hearing officer to reduce the cost of advertising the hearing.