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County Council bill seeks to clarify PUD hearings, agency review

A measure being considered by the County Council proposes to clarify aspects of planned unit developments in the county, but at a work session on Tuesday, May 29, at least one council member expressed concern that it might go too far.

Councilman Ken Oliver, who represents Randallstown in the 4th District, called into question some aspects of the PUD reform bill, being proposed by 5th District Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson.

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Marks said the bill is designed to make clarifications to the county's PUD law, addressing the timing of the public input meetings after plans are submitted, clarifying which agencies can review the PUD, and also clarifying how a material amendment to a previously approved PUD is dealt with.

But the bill language also allows for PUDs in an area that is wholly or partially serviced by public water and sewer. Some of those areas would extend outside of the county's Urban-Rural Demarcation Line — which denotes where public water and sewer is available. PUDs are generally not permitted outside the demarcation line.

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With that language, Oliver questioned whether such a bill conflicted with the county's master plan for land-use.

The Planned Unit Development process is one in which developers can pursue more intense development than the zoning would otherwise permit — provided there is a demonstrated need and community benefit.

Director of Planning Andrea Van Arsdale was at the work session, but not to speak on the matter. She said she hadn't examined the bill in that regard yet.

Reached later Tuesday afternoon, Marks said he had spoken to Oliver and that he was assured Oliver would not oppose the bill.

"I don't think it's really an issue," Marks said. "The fact is, we've built so many protections into the PUD process that any project is going to receive wide scrutiny before it advances."

He said many of the PUD proposals that come before the council straddle the URDL, so the bill would clear up misunderstandings there.

The main elements of the bill require that public input meetings on PUD proposals be held between three weeks and 30 days after the application is submitted — with three weeks notice provided for the meeting.

The bill also lists the Department of Planning and Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability as two of the reviewing agencies that must provide a preliminary evaluation on the PUD to the council within 15 days of the application.

And if an amendment is made to a PUD, the bill stipulates that the Director of Permits, Approvals and Inspections consult the directors of planning and environmental protection and decide whether it is a "material amendment" — defined as "any significant change in the type, location and arrangement of principal land use within the development."

If the council agrees with the director's decision of whether the change is material or immaterial, the PUD can proceed. If there is a disagreement, the matter can be called to vote by the council.

Marks' bill is scheduled for vote at the County Council meeting on Monday, June 4.

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