Bill on roadside produce postponed

The Baltimore Sun

The Anne Arundel County Council postponed its vote on a bill that would make changes to legislation regarding roadside and produce stands, after one councilmember expressed concern over how the businesses would affect their neighbors.

The bill, dubbed the "Dick and Jane" bill by co-sponsor Edward R. Reilly, was drafted to "protect existing long-term businesses in the county," Reilly said, particularly the roadside stand Dick and Jane's in Harwood.

"In my district they are very supportive to keep this 17-year location open and serving the neighbors," said Reilly, who represents the southern part of the county.

The bill sets conditions for roadside stands and produce markets in residential districts. The legislation is twofold: One portion changes the definition of roadside stands so that they don't have to be zoned, and the other portion defines produce markets, which are commercial operations, and allows them in residential areas with restrictions.

Reilly said the purpose of the bill was not to expand the number of people selling produce.

"I'm hopeful it will pass," he said. "I'm pretty comfortable it will get through."

At Monday's council meeting, 5th District councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale asked for the vote to be postponed because she had questions about whether the businesses will bother residents.

"These bills continue to concern me a little bit," Vitale said at the meeting.

"How are residences going to have commercial activity right next door?"

Vitale compared the issue to that of nurseries being allowed in residential zones.

"It really has destroyed the ability to enjoy their own property," Vitale said of some of her constituents.

Albert Johnston, a Severna Park resident, told the council that he and some of his neighbors object to the bill because there are no limitations to where the vendors get the produce they sell.

"We've seen [the bill], and we hope you will at least put back the original concept that some of the produce be grown on-site," Johnston told the council.

The bill sets nine requirements for produce markets:

* They must be situated on lots of at least 1 acre.

* The lot must have access to a minor arterial or higher road.

* The structures must be set back at least 25 feet from the front property line.

* Adequate off-street parking must be provided.

* Signs must comply with existing code. Currently, signs for roadside stands can be 20 square feet or 8 feet tall, and signs for commercial operations can be 64 square feet or 10 feet tall.

* The market may sell produce and other agricultural and horticultural products.

* Accessory retail items incidental to sales of produce and agricultural or horticultural good and outside storage of retail items can't occupy more than 20 percent of the lot.

* Restrictions are established for storage areas.

* A site plan must be approved by the county's Office of Planning and Zoning.

Sixth District Councilman Josh Cohen, the bill's other sponsor, said that Vitale raised a "valid concern" and that the bill will be stronger by the time it goes through.

"We're trying to have it both ways: We're trying to allow produce markets to locate in appropriate areas and in certain residential zones but make sure that they do not have a negative impact on the surrounding communities," Cohen said.

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