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Council to consider community planning studies in 'comp light'


Members of the Howard County Council can expect more summer reading on their agenda, with the results of five community planning studies scheduled for release, starting in May.

The councilmen will address recommendations from the studies for parts of Ellicott City, Columbia and Highland - as well as the county's need for senior housing - as part of comprehensive rezoning legislation they intend to introduce in October.

Meeting that time frame is "going to be pretty challenging," said North Laurel-Savage Democrat Guy Guzzone, the council chairman.

"Comp light," as county staff members refer to it, will address these matters and several map changes that were not resolved in time for inclusion in the larger rezoning bill, which council members approved Feb. 2.

The law details 126 amendments to Howard's zoning maps for 2,660 acres across the county. It represents more than a year's worth of hearings, meetings and negotiations in the process, conducted every 10 years, to determine the direction of the county's development.

Before the comp light bill is introduced, members of the Planning Board have to consider it and make a recommendation, said Sheila M. Tolliver, the council administrator.

Originally, only map amendments for additional commercial zoning along U.S. 40 in Ellicott City were to be addressed after the completion of the Route 40 Enhancement Study. Now the council will tackle 11 issues, including several areas along U.S. 1, where thousands of acres have been rezoned.

Owners of six properties along Montevideo Road in Jessup, for example, want to retain industrial zoning rather than the new "corridor employment" district suggested by the Department of Planning and Zoning, said planner Steven M. Johns. It allows 25 uses, including some manufacturing and research laboratories.

Johns said the department has records showing that notices were sent about the rezoning proposals. But Chris McCahan, president of McCahan Body & Trailer Co., and his neighbors say they never received them.

"I thought I was so far off the boulevard that I wasn't affected," he said.

In addition to concerns about the value of his property, McCahan believes Montevideo Road is an appropriate location for his truck-repair business, given its proximity to the Maryland Wholesale Food Center and other distribution hubs. He has operated there since 1987.

Nearby, owners of several properties near Mission Road hope to assemble them as a "corridor activity center" district, which integrates offices, retail space and shops, but they were unable to complete talks before the vote this month, Johns said.

Also up for consideration are changes for Aladdin Village mobile home park along U.S. 1; a property at Freetown Road and Cedar Lane in Columbia; and the southwestern Braun property at routes 103 and 100.

St. John's Baptist Church of Columbia applied for rezoning for its property along Marriottsville Road that would allow religious institutions without "conditional use" permission, but the request came too late to include in the first bill, said western Howard Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, a Republican who represents the area.

Like the U.S. 40 study, the Highland plan will address uses at its rural crossroads, as well as consider potential widening and fixes for zoning lines that do not match property lines. Members of the community also have been meeting to create voluntary design guidelines for commercial properties, Johns said.

Three of the studies will propose changes to the zoning code for Columbia's New Town district and senior housing, as well as the planned golf course community district at Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center in Ellicott City.

The council plans to appoint a New Town panel, including a Rouse Co. representative, by next month. And county officials have been working on a draft of the senior housing master plan, said Steve Lafferty, deputy planning director. He hopes the report, which will address the needs of seniors "aging in place" and the demand for housing specifically for seniors, will be completed by May.

The needs in Howard's rural west will also be considered. Residents near a commercially zoned parcel near Lisbon Shopping Center, concerned about the possible effects on their wells, opposed a proposed amendment to the rezoning bill that would have allowed up to eight townhouses for senior citizens on such properties.

"It looks great on paper, the idea of putting seniors around shopping centers, but how will they be able to handle the water and sewer?" said Bruce MacDonald, who lives off Old Frederick Road.

Representatives from the Department of Planning and Zoning, Turf Valley and nearby communities met last week to discuss a proposed increase of density for the roughly 800-acre site.

About 130 of nearly 1,400 homes approved in 1986 have been built. After owner Mangione Family Enterprises closed one of its three golf courses, it asked the county to increase the district's density to allow more than 200 additional houses.

Neighbors of Turf Valley asked that the council delay its decisions until the effects on schools and roads could be determined. Lou Mangione said after a Maryland Department of the Environment public hearing Wednesday that he has agreed to conduct a traffic study.

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