Howard County's Zoning Code and Development Regulations Rewrite Process Has Begun
For the first time since the 1970’s, Howard County is undertaking an assessment and rewrite of its zoning and development regulations, and associated development manuals. No doubt Howard County’s Department of Planning and Zoning has set in place an organized process for this comprehensive undertaking, but it promises to be slow. The process is comprised of two phases and will likely take three (3) years to complete.
At the Community Engagement Meetings held in March, residents identified a myriad of problems with the existing regulations and a wish list of things they want to see changed. Public notification procedures, ability to locate information on the County’s website, redevelopment, school overcrowding, locations for solar and telecommunications uses, and the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances were just a few of the issues raised. Minutes from those meetings will be available sometime this summer.
Speaking at the March 28th Community Engagement Meeting, County Executive Alan Kittleman said revisions to these regulations were a “long time coming”, in that residents have frequently complained that the zoning and development regulations are too complicated and difficult to understand. Stating that the County’s “land use challenges have evolved and our regulations haven’t”, Kittleman said the goal is to create a better zoning and development process which citizens and the development industry alike will find easy to follow. To provide guidance throughout the re-write process, County Executive Kittleman appointed 13 citizens to a Steering Committee. The list of Steering Committee members can be found on the County’s website, here.
To manage Phase 1 of the re-write process, Howard County has retained a national land-use consultant, Clarion Associates. Based out of Denver with offices in five states, the firm has produced over 100 comprehensive code updates nationwide. One of Clarion Associates’ Directors, Don Elliott, moderated the March Community Engagement Meetings. In response to a question as to whether he will consider the importance of issues raised by citizens based on the quantity of comments, Mr. Elliott stated he welcomes and encourages everyone’s input but doesn’t take votes. The full version of Clarion Associates’ Public Engagement Plan can also be found on the County’s website, here.
Timing wise, Phase I of the re-write process will occur over the next 12 months and is focused on gathering input and drafting an assessment of the current regulations. Phase II involves the drafting of a new code or set of codes which will take place after a Phase II Request for Proposals (RFP) for that work is released sometime in 2018.
Additional input and informational meetings will occur this summer. Comments are encouraged and can be submitted via the Howard County website at https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Planning-and-Zoning/Development-Regulation-Assessment/Land-Development-Regulations-Comment-Form.
There is a difference of opinion amongst those in the development community as to what portions, if any, of the existing regulations should be changed. Certainly there will also be differences of opinion between the development community and the citizens. We look forward to monitoring this process. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.