independent board acted at its Jan. 29 business meeting on the
latest revision of the ordinance introduced by Council president
Christopher Coons and Council members Karen Venezky and Robert
Weiner with the understanding that the measure will undergo some
more minor changes before the Department of Land Use submits it
to Council. Charles Baker, general manager of the department,
said none of those changes will be substantive.
8-1 to accept the department's recommendation, board members
indicated agreement with chairman Victor Singer's observation
that the landmark Unified Development Code continues to need
refinement. "Everybody is agreed it is not perfect," Singer
said, adding that each modification to improve it is "a
move in the right direction/"
ordinance amends the development code by adding a section to the
part of the code dealing with nonconforming buildings and
essence, that sets forth a procedure by which properties which
were in compliance with county regulations when built or were
built before the county adopted zoning and land-use regulations
could be replaced or expanded without having to comply with the
more restrictive present code or having to acquire variances
from provisions not met.
member David Tackett cast the only negative vote, saying that he
did not disagree with the thrust of the ordinance but would have
preferred to see it contain a so-called 'sunset provision'. That
term means a law automatically expires, unless renewed, at the
end of a stated period. Tackett suggested that be three years.
There is a provision in the ordinance which requires the land
use department to report annually to Council on "the use and
effectiveness" of the redevelopment provisions during the first
three years that it is in force. Council would have the power to
modify or repeal it if so desired.
told the board that he does not expect the ordinance to open the
gates to a flood of redevelopment applications. He said there
are only about two or three proposals submitted to the
department in the course of a year which would come under the
new provisions. "If that goes up to four or five a year, I would
call it a rousing success," he said.
said that the purpose of the ordinance is not to enhance the
economic viability of redevelopment projects. That, he said,
would be up to property owners and developers to determine.
department's recommendation indicated, however, that it is
expected to provide an alternative to having older properties
deteriorate and become blighted. The idea is that it is better
to have them partially meet the present code requirements than
to let that happen.
in the [present] law requires that [the owner] do anything. ...
This brings applicability of the [development code] to parcels
that are already developed and in use," Singer said.
for enacting the ordinance is contained in its synopsis:
"Redevelopment makes efficient use of existing infrastructure
and provides an attractive alternative to development of
undeveloped areas. This amendment provides incentives to
property owners to redevelop older, unmarketable, run-down,
legally nonconforming non-residential sites, while encouraging
extensive public input into the process to identify the
nonconforming design elements most likely to provide
improvements determined to to be the most desireable."
in the proposed code change would prevent redevelopment of an
existing site in full conformity with the Unified Development
provision of the ordinance is that a would-be redeveloper would
be credited for binging the property more closely into
compliance in regard to such things as setbacks, buffer zones,
parking, landscaping, stormwater management and the like. Each
would be measured by percentage of compliance and the
percentages totaled as an indication of overall improvement.
written, that total would have to be at least 400. Since no
single area of improvement could produce a total higher than
100, there would have to be improvements in at least four areas.
The original version of the ordinance would have required the
percentages to total at least 100.
Envisioned is a process by which the community would negotiate
the extent of improvements with the prospective developer. The
ordinance provides that the process begin with a public hearing
before the planning board.
involve the public [in] the first proceeding, you are never
going to get to the final proceeding. They will oppose it,"
board member Joseph Maloney said. Baker disagreed, saying that,
in practice developers and community representatives would
necessarily seek to resolve difference and reach agreement
before the public hearing.
that, he added, is the fact the ordinance "has noting to do with
nonconforming uses [but] just the design elements."
The revised draft retains a
provision that the project be considered minor if it involves an
expansion of less than 20,000 square feet. Larger projects would
be classified as major, requiring County Council to give final