Slew of zoning changes OK’d
Will affect architectural reviews, adequate public facilities and more
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.
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.