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Panel backs zoning curb; But Planning Board wants Sharp housing project to proceed; Gray had proposed limit; Amendment would restrict development near reservoirs


The Howard County Planning Board endorsed a zoning amendment last night restricting development in areas near reservoirs, but said a disputed residential project in rural Dayton should be allowed to proceed.

The amendment -- drafted by Democratic County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray -- would change the zoning code to prohibit the building of homes on lots of fewer than two acres in developments of 20 acres or more.

Those rules, which match state standards, apply to development proposed within 2,500 feet of a reservoir in a rural conservation district.

The Planning Board delayed voting on a proposal by Councilman Guy Guzzone, a Democrat, to place new limits on mixed-use developments. The board will vote on that amendment March 11.

The board agreed that the Gray amendment should not affect Glenwood farmer Charles Sharp, who plans to build 95 houses on 237 acres of farmland on Triadelphia Road in Dayton. The bill would have affected about 35 homes in Sharp's plan -- called Big Branch Overlook -- within 2,500 feet of the Triadelphia Reservoir.

The board unanimously said that Sharp's project should be protected because it had already received preliminary approval from the county Department of Planning and Zoning.

"I kind of feel that changing the rules in the middle of stream is wrong," said board member Gary Kaufman.

Added board Chairman Robert F. Geiger: "If this is an attempt at spot zoning, I'm very much against it."

The ruling delighted Sharp and his attorney, Alec Adams, who reminded the board that Gray had tried to bar his client from developing the project last year with a different amendment.

"This is the second attempt by Dr. Gray to stop this project," Adams told the board. "If this bill passes, it will stop this project dead."

Gray was unavailable for comment, but Peter J. Esseff, president of the Dayton Community Association, said he is "guardedly optimistic" that the County Council will use the bill to deter the Big Branch Overlook project.

"I think we have an uphill battle to remind them that there are hundreds of people who live in a sensitive area," Esseff said.

The board also heard testimony on Guzzone's proposal to limit mixed-use development. The Department of Planning and Zoning had backed the amendment, but recommended two significant changes.

One called for reducing the amount of open space for recreation from 30 percent to 10 percent. The higher percentage would mean that open space would take land that might have been used for employment centers, planning officials said, making it too difficult for developers to realize a profit on their investments.

The other change in Guzzone's bill would ease a requirement that roads be completed before any houses are built.

The department also suggested eliminating a proposed fiscal impact analysis for each project and giving the Planning Board power to say if a gas station may be included, instead of requiring a special zoning exception.

Pub Date: 2/25/99

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