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Closed-door zoning decision brings state inquiry



An article in Friday's Howard County edition of The Sun said that the Howard County Citizens Association was concerned about traffic that a proposed Rouse Co. project in North Laurel would bring. Kathryn Mann, the association's president, said it has not taken an official position against the project -- only against the county Zoning Board's decision to consider at a single hearing both the company's requests for land rezoning and for approval of a preliminary development plan.

The state attorney general's office has asked the Howard County Zoning Board to explain why it made a decision behind closed doors to streamline hearings for a major North Laurel development.

Kimberly Ward, assistant attorney general, said she sent a letter six days after a complaint was filed by the Howard County Citizens Association (HCCA), which is concerned about plans for the Columbia-style village off Gorman Road.

Ward said the Zoning Board has 30 days to respond to the complaint. Then the state office has 30 more days to make a decision, she said.

HCCA President Kathyrn Mann said the association is opposed to the Zoning Board's Jan. 8 decision to grant the Rouse Co. a hearing that will assess the developer's request to rezone the 527.3-acre site from business to mixed use and its preliminary development plan for the site.

The proposal entails a mixed-use development about half the size of a Columbia-style village, with hundreds of single-family and multifamily homes, business and office space, and a recreation area.

The plan is scheduled for a hearing before the county Planning Board on March 12, after which it will go back to the Zoning Board for final approval.

Mann, whose organization is worried about the potential growth in traffic the project would bring, said the issues should be considered separately. "Otherwise, it's going to be a very cloudy and muddy hearing," she said. "And I personally feel that it will drag on because you have a large body of information to discuss."

Rouse officials have said that the rezoning issues are so closely tied to the specific plans for the site that it makes sense for the two to be considered together.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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