Slew of zon­ing changes OK’d

Will af­fect ar­chi­tec­tural re­views, ad­e­quate pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties and more

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD [email protected]­news.com

The county com­mis­sion­ers and Calvert County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion ap­proved a se­ries of amend­ments re­gard­ing ar­chi­tec­tural re­view pro­ce­dures, ad­e­quate pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties reg­u­la­tions and crit­i­cal area fees at a re­cent hear­ing.

The Nov. 27 joint pub­lic hear­ing at the Har­riet E. Brown Com­mu­nity Cen­ter pro­ceeded with­out dis­cus­sion or ob­jec­tion from board mem­bers on any of staff’s pro­posed changes.

The meet­ing was also noted as the last joint hear­ing for both Com­mis- sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Evan Slaugh­en­houpt (R) and Com­mis­sioner Pat Nut­ter (R), who are step­ping down when their terms ends in De­cem­ber. Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent Tom Hejl (R), who is also not re­turn­ing, was not in at­ten­dance due to a schedule con­flict.

“It’s been an honor to serve with both of you. Thank you for all you have done for the cit­i­zens,” Com­mis­sioner Steve Weems (R) told Slaugh­en­houpt and Nut­ter.

Both re­tir­ing

com­mis­sion­ers thanked fel­low plan­ning mem­bers for their work and ded­i­ca­tion.

The two boards first con­sid­ered re­vi­sions to the county’s ar­chi­tec­tural re­view pro­ce­dures within the seven town cen­ter zon­ing or­di­nances.

Ar­chi­tec­tural re­view com­mit­tees re­view ap­pli­ca­tions for ex­te­rior de­sign fea­tures of all struc­tures as well as all signs within town cen­ters, in con­form­ity with ap­pear­ance stan­dards and guide­lines dic­tated by their re­spec­tive town cen­ter mas­ter plans and zon­ing or­di­nances. The ARCs then make rec­om­men­da­tions to the plan­ning com­mis­sion on pro­ject ap­pli­ca­tions sub­mit­ted by busi­nesses open­ing shop in their town cen­ters.

Out of con­cerns over de­lays in ap­pli­ca­tion re­views, amend­ments to the county’s ar­chi­tec­tural re­view pro­ce­dures were drafted and in­clude mea­sures to en­sure timely re­view and pro­cess­ing of ap­pli­ca­tions. Pro­vi­sions re­gard­ing con­duct of meet­ings and the re­view process for projects were also amended.

ARCs will now be re­quired to hold two reg­u­lar meet­ings ev­ery month, un­less there are no ap­pli­ca­tions to re­view. They can hold spe­cial meet­ings, which can be called by the chair­per­son upon writ­ten re­quest from a ma­jor­ity of mem­bers of the com­mit­tee, or by county plan­ning and zon­ing staff.

If the com­mit­tee does not have a quo­rum or fails to pro­vide a rec­om­men­da­tion, the pro­ject packet will be pro­cessed by staff within 10 busi­ness days of the ARC’s sched­uled meet­ing.

A ref­er­ence to Chap­ter 11 of the Calvert County code re­gard­ing ten­ure, ap­point­ments, re­moval and term lim­its of mem­bers was also added to the text.

The ap­proved amend­ments are a big de­par­ture from the com­mis­sion­ers’ ini­tial plan to abol­ish the ARCs in Novem­ber 2015, which the com­mu­nity op­posed.

“Thank you all for main­tain­ing the ar­chi­tec­tural re­view com­mit­tees as part of the plan­ning process. I think it is ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial,” Prince Fred­er­ick res­i­dent Ed Ap­ple said.

Ap­ple and his wife Sue, who also spoke in sup- port of ARCs, serve on the Prince Fred­er­ick ARC. He ex­pressed no op­po­si­tion to changes to the meet­ing schedule, but was con­cerned about hav­ing only one op­por­tu­nity to re­view an ap­pli­ca­tion.

“Dunkirk is a great ex­am­ple of ben­e­fits of the lo­cal com­mu­nity be­ing in­volved and mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to­wards devel­op­ment within their town,” Dunkirk res­i­dent Tom Mero said, re­fer­ring to the gen­eral qual­ity and ap­pear­ance of the build­ings in the town cen­ter. “Re­tain the ARCs and [let] lo­cal cit­i­zens and busi­nesses con­tinue to be in­volved in the devel­op­ment of their own com­mu­ni­ties.”

Mero, who was on the lo­cal ARC for 15 years, com­mended the plan­ning com­mis­sion for re­mov­ing the com­mis­sion­ers’ pro­posed change that would have al­lowed the is­suance of waivers from the ARC process to new de­vel­op­ments, ex­cept for lo­cal small busi­nesses. Mero called the waiver a “bad joke” on the cit­i­zens and small busi­nesses.

Plan­ning com­mis­sion mem­ber James Toohey mo­tioned to ac­cept the amend­ments and plan­ning vice chair Steve Jones sec­onded it. With no op­po­si­tion, the com­mis­sion rec­om­mended ap­proval of the ARC amend­ments. The com­mis­sion­ers’ vote count was 4–0.

In the same fash­ion, both boards ap­proved a change to the Calvert County Zon­ing Or­di­nance for fees-in-lieu for crit­i­cal area buf­fer plant­ing mit­i­ga­tion.

Cur­rently 50 cents per square foot is col­lected for buf­fer dis­tur­bance. Deputy Zon­ing Di­rec­tor Mary Beth Cook said the low fee is no longer cov­er­ing the plant­ing costs as­so­ci­ated with the re­for­esta­tion pro­gram. How­ever, the Crit­i­cal Area Com­mis­sion re­quires coun­ties to charge $1.50 per square foot of dis­tur­bance in the crit­i­cal area buf­fer for mit­i­ga­tion.

Staff pro­posed that the fees should be “con­sis­tent with the fee set by the Crit­i­cal Area Com­mis­sion per square foot of mit­i­ga­tion not ac­com­mo­dated on­site and shall be placed in the Crit­i­cal Area Fees in Lieu Fund.”

Both the plan­ning board and the com­mis­sion­ers also ap­proved changes to the county’s reg­u­la­tions that tie res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment ap­proval to the avail­abil­ity of pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties.

“The pro­pos­als are for school reg­u­la­tions, not for roads,” Cook said dur­ing the joint hear­ing.

Along with re­duc­ing the length of time for max­i­mum de­lay for fi­nal ap­proval of res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment from seven to six years, the boards also green-lighted an “editorial change” to the num­ber of res­i­den­tial lots for mi­nor sub­di­vi­sions from five to seven, which Cook noted was an ear­lier omis­sion.

Ear­lier in the day, the com­mis­sion­ers held a work ses­sion with Cook and long-range Jenny Plum­mer-Welker to re­view the pro­posed changes.

“We wouldn’t have to do any of this if the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion would do what they should do,” Hejl said dur­ing the af­ter­noon work ses­sion, to which Com­mis­sioner Mike Hart (R) said “don’t get me started on re­dis­trict­ing.”

Calvert County Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Daniel Curry de­clined to com­ment on Hejl’s re­mark, but did ac­knowl­edge that the is­sue of re­dis­trict­ing comes with con­tro­versy and that it is a “re­spon­si­bil­ity that we don’t take lightly and it is not an easy de­ci­sion.”

Pre­vi­ously, the com­mis­sion­ers also looked at in­creas­ing the thresh­old for ca­pac­ity in Calvert County Pub­lic Schools, but the plan­ning com­mis­sion re­jected the school ca­pac­ity ex­pan­sion re­quest dur­ing a Septem- ber work ses­sion.

The com­mis­sion­ers closed the record and signed the three or­di­nances, ush­er­ing the ar­chi­tec­tural re­view pro­ce­dures, ad­e­quate pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties reg­u­la­tions and crit­i­cal area fees changes into ef­fect im­me­di­ately.

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