More than 300 Harford residents apply for rezoning

The Baltimore Sun

More than 300 Harford County property owners have requested reclassification of their land in a comprehensive rezoning process that has resumed after a three-year hiatus and should be completed by the fall, officials said.

Planning and zoning staff will assess each application by the end of this month, hold information meetings with the Planning Advisory Board in April and issue final recommendations in May, County Executive David R. Craig said.

The County Council is expected to submit its desired changes as legislation June 16 and vote on the proposal by September, according to C. Peter Gutwald, county planning and zoning director.

In 2006, Craig vetoed the comprehensive rezoning plan passed by the council, saying it allowed for too much growth outside the county's designated development zone, which includes areas around Bel Air and along U.S. 40.

Comprehensive rezoning was then put on hold as officials and a panel of residents rewrote the entire Harford County Zoning Code, a voluminous document that lays out land-use regulations for the county but that hadn't been amended in a quarter-century. The project took 18 months.

"By the time it was finished, a lot of [zoning] problems were already solved," Gutwald said.

Still, 327 property owners have asked that one or more parcels be reclassified. Each paid $800 to apply.

The number of requests fell within the expected range for comprehensive rezoning, Gutwald said, and included applications from all parts of the county.

"We look forward to working with the County Council on each and every request for a zoning review," Craig said in a statement. "We will do all we can to ensure a fair and equitable process for all the citizens of Harford County."

In comprehensive rezoning, Gutwald said, "every property owner is welcome to make an application for review, to request that their property be rezoned" - for instance, that a residential parcel be reclassified as commercial, or a residential parcel be allowed a greater density of occupants.

Comprehensive rezoning, which the Harford County Charter says must be undertaken every eight years, was last enacted in the county in 1997.

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