Amendments denied in bill still have life


A series of zoning law changes that would make it easier for Howard County's citizens to gain equal footing with developers may have died an ugly death at Monday night's County Council meeting, but reincarnation appears imminent.

Despite the partisan bickering during this week's voting session on 45 amendments to a long zoning revision bill, a bipartisan trio of councilmen plan to craft the measures into a new bill. The new measure would be reviewed by the Planning Board before a council vote in several months.

The proposed changes would do such things as require developers to summon neighbors of a project to a meeting, submit all their documents supporting a change 30 days before a public hearing, require a two-year wait before trying to modify an approved conditional use and require the county to seek revocation of a conditional use if zoning violations are not corrected in 30 days.

"They're good amendments. I think they should happen," Council Chairman Guy J. Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat, said yesterday as he led council budget deliberations.

"I'm definitely interested in pursuing it," said Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, a western county Republican.

The issue that sparked the most discord at the meeting - the potential development of densely packed senior citizen housing on the Taylor Manor Hospital property in Ellicott City - might not be a cause for concern.

Don Reuwer, a developer working with Dr. Bruce Taylor on plans for possible future development on the 60-acre property, said yesterday that Taylor has never considered high-density development there.

"I know his intention is not to develop more than eight units per acre," Reuwer said.

Taylor was not available for comment yesterday.

County Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican, said at the meeting that allowing unrestricted senior citizen housing in the office zone that Taylor Manor occupies could result in up to 3,000 units on the property.

The Democrats said housing for seniors would produce no more congestion than the office buildings that the zone would also allow.

Merdon and Kittleman were frustrated Monday night watching many, though not all, of the 30 amendments they submitted go down to defeat.

The changes were killed in a series of 3-2 party-line votes as the council's two Republicans charged Guzzone with breaking his promise to support them.

Guzzone denied that, agreeing with his two fellow Democrats that the changes were too many, too late to be made part of the 114-page zoning revision the council has labored over for more than two months.

Guzzone sided with Kittleman and Merdon in several votes, including one on an amendment that would more rigidly restrict the density of senior citizen housing in the western county, where public water and sewerage are not available. Another would limit to 60 feet the height of mid-rise senior housing in the planned senior district floating zone, which was designed to encourage more diverse housing for older people.

Guzzone said he would not change his mind about the item that produced the most rancor - eliminating age-restricted housing in the planned office research zone, where it is now allowed by right.

Instead, the housing would be allowed only in the new planned senior district zones the new law created - automatically limiting density to eight units an acre.

Doing that, Guzzone and county Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr. said, would effectively bar any future assisted-living developments from the county.

Merdon said the amendment was intended to block high-density senior citizen housing at Taylor Manor Hospital in his district.

But Guzzone said yesterday that Bruce Taylor, who operates the family-owned private psychiatric hospital, has promised not to build more than eight units an acre. Taylor attended Monday night's council meeting, sitting with Reuwer.

Taylor said then that he is considering developing part of his land, but has no immediate plans.

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