Anne Arundels Small Area Plans Speak with the Voice of the People
By Peter Perry
The Anne Arundel County Council passed the South County Small Area Plan, Bill 68-01, earlier this month. Its passage will guarantee that the resounding outcry of South County residents keep South County rural will be heard and heeded.
Guess again! The passage of this bill and of any of the countys 16 small area plans only sets in motion the final and arguably the most critical phase of the comprehensive rezoning process.
The bill passed by the council lays out the detailed concept for implementing the countys overall General Development Plan as it applies to the South County small area. A second bill scheduled to be introduced December 17 will propose specific zoning changes to actualize the entire small area plan. Once the second bill is introduced, individuals can petition any council member to amend the bill to reflect particular needs and desires. The council is now accepting requests for amendments.
Herein lies the rub. How the council responds to these requests will determine the future of development.
Unless the council adheres to the intent of the bill it just passed, the work of the South County Small Area Planning committee can be undone and trust violated of the many citizens who worked thorough the many forums our committee held over two years.
What must the council do? What criteria must the council set for itself when deciding how to respond to zoning change requests?
Among other things the bill which will now be law requires that:
- Growth will be limited to areas with adequate existing or planned infrastructure.
- An active, sustainable farm industry will be a priority.
- Quality of life will be improved by a greater focus on community facilities.
- Residential and commercial development will be managed to maximize opportunities for sustainable agriculture and the retention of woodland and open space.
- Waysons Corner remain a viable rural commercial area for South County; commercial development in other areas that would detract from Waysons Corner be limited.
- Commercial development and home-based businesses be small in size and appropriate in location and design for the rural and historic character.
- Agricultural preservation will receive a high priority for funding.
- The integrity of the current RA zoning be maintained, and the ordinance amended to remove inappropriate land uses.
- The integrity of Anne Arundel County zoning be maintained and not compromised by land use in adjoining counties.
- The Patuxent River be protected by the Patuxent River Greenway to protect the water quality, wildlife and its habitat, wetlands and other natural resources.
- The travel corridors Maryland Routes 2, 4, 214, 468 and 258 be protected from over-development and commercial clutter.
- Land use and zoning be restricted to maintain the rural character of the roadways.
To conform to the law, the council should follow a procedure similar to one developed on the land use and zoning subcommittee of the South County Small Area Planning committee. Here is what we did:
We developed a template for potential zoning changes. Any change had to be consistent with our land use recommendations, which were based on the input of the citizens who attended our many forums.
The recommendations passed by the council are the synthesis on many hours of public input. To abandon or distort them now would be a violation of public trust.
When the council considers the zoning maps bill, it should ask the following question: How does your request support the intent of the bill we just made law?
If the council follows guidelines similar to the ones our committee has followed, it will undoubtedly reach the same conclusions our committees did logically, unemotionally, without angst.
Peter Perry, who is running for County Council from the 7th District, is a member of the South County Small Area Planning Committee.