Planners OK revisions to county zoning law


The Carroll County planning commission approved the most recent revisions to a contentious zoning law yesterday, recommending only a few minor changes.

The revisions, which also received general approval from the county commissioners last week, would remove aspects of the law that critics say would prompt a rise in development across the county's rural land.

The only change recommended by the planning commission would eliminate a 1.75-acre ceiling on the average size of lots in a clustered development on land zoned for conservation.

The law, passed in September, creates the potential for more development by changing the method for calculating the number of residential lots available on land zoned for conservation. It also allows landowners to transfer the rights for those lots to land zoned for agricultural use.

The law prompted angry reactions from many Carroll residents and from state planning officials, who threatened to decertify Carroll's farmland preservation program if the law wasn't revised or repealed.

Under the proposed revisions, however, the method for calculating the number of residential lots available on land zoned for conservation would revert to the way it was before September. Landowners would be afforded only as many lots as they could demonstrably carve from conservation land in plots of at least 3 acres or more.

The law would still allow landowners to cluster their available lots at a minimum size of one acre each and spread those clusters across zoning lines.

The commission approved the revised law in a 3-2 vote. Panel member Melvin Baile said he still does not support the law because, even with the revisions, it would allow development on agricultural land that could not have occurred under old laws.

The county commissioners will continue their discussion of the amended law tomorrow.

In related action yesterday, the planning commission gave a tentative go-ahead for two proposed subdivisions to use the clustering provisions of the contentious law.

Pine Brook Farms, a 36-lot, 109-acre subdivision in Woodbine proposed by Mueller Homes of Howard County, and the Davidson property, a 41-lot, 89-acre development in Finksburg proposed by Catonsville Homes, are well-suited to clustering, commission members said.

Their action did not constitute approval of either plan. The developers would have to subdivide under whatever version of the law exists when the commission formally considers plans for each site.

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