Council passes zoning-change notification bill


A bill to prevent Harford officials from changing a property's zoning without notifying its owner and neighbors was enacted by the County Council Thursday.

The bill revises general procedures for comprehensive zoning review, the lengthy process of re-examining and changing existing zoning that the county undertakes every eight years.

"This bill was a measure of success," said Councilwoman Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, its sponsor. She said she was pleased with the compromise the council reached with county ** officials.

Specifically, the bill requires the planning and zoning department to notify by mail the owner of a property and neighbors if the county intends to rezone the land during a comprehensive review. It requires property owners to post signs to announce public hearings on rezoning they request.

The legislation also limits the requests for zoning changes that can be submitted to the county after an announced deadline.

"This is a bill that will protect everyone for the future," said Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson.

But District B Councilwoman Joanne S. Parrott said she thought it should be left up to the next elected council to amend zoning procedures, because the next comprehensive review is not scheduled to begin until late 1995.

"There are a lot of good points to the bill, but the next council should set the criteria of the next comprehensive rezoning," she said, casting the only dissenting vote in the 6-1 decision.

Later, Mrs. Parrott asked to change her vote on the zoning bill to an "aye" for the record, which made the final vote unanimous.

The council met Thursday to take up unfinished business from an abbreviated session Tuesday evening. It next meets Aug. 9.

Other pieces of legislation that passed Thursday included:

* An administration-sponsored bill to tighten existing regulations address numbers so they will be clearly visible from the nearest roadway.

The bill was prompted by complaints from county fire, police and ambulance personnel, who said it has become increasingly difficult to locate the sources of emergency calls, particularly in rural areas where houses sit far from roads.

The bill would require property owners to post on their homes numbers that are at least 3 inches high, in contrasting color and in plain view of the road on which the property fronts.

If the home or business is more than 150 feet from the road, a second set of numerals must be posted at the entrance to the property.

The bill passed 7-0.

Mr. Wilson urged officials to "use good common sense to enforce it," noting that a strict interpretation of the law could place a hardship on some residents.

* A bill sponsored by Mr. Wilson that would limit the cases in which a home could be built with doors leading to a nonexisting deck.

The law requires a homebuilder to construct a deck when the home is built or guarantee that the lot on which the home sits is big enough to accommodate a 12-by-12-foot deck without getting a zoning variance. Otherwise, the deck-access doors could not be built.

The bill was adopted 5-2.

Mrs. Parrott and Democrat Philip Barker of District F cast the dissenting votes.

* Two bills that authorize a county property tax exemption for owners of the Aldino Harford County Airpark and the Fallston Airport.

bTC The two public airports will be exempt from 100 percent of the property tax on existing improved runways and taxiways. The exemptions are to be financed by a grant from the Maryland Aviation Administration.

In return, the airport owners must agree to keep the airports open for at least 10 years.

In a public hearing on the bills last month, state aviation officials said the tax break is necessary to keep small public airports, a vital part of Maryland's transportation infrastructure, alive.

* Authorized the county executive to execute a lease-purchase agreement for a computerized accounts receivable system for the Harford Department of Treasury. The principal of $540,000 would be paid off in five years.

* A bill that revises regulations on cottage housing. According to the zoning code, a cottage house is a temporary second dwelling on a single lot, such as an apartment inside an existing home or a mobile home next to the main dwelling.

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