Comprehensive Rezoning


On July 15, the Anne Arundel County Council will vote on Region 4 comprehensive zoning legislation. This will not be done again for another 10 years.

When I ran for office in 2018, I committed to oppose large-volume residential upzonings that had been seen in previous comprehensive rezoning bills. Our area faces traffic and infrastructure challenges on a regular basis and has seen schools that are over capacity in the past. On the other hand, I do not support downzoning a property that has been zoned for residential development, unless the property owner has requested this downzoning. It is a slippery slope to downzone a property and there are supreme court cases that have determined it is illegal to take property from a landowner in this fashion.

I approached this once-in-a-decade legislation, understanding that, historically, the majority of council members supported any proposed change in an area of the county that was initiated by the elected councilmember for said area. There is an enormous responsibility in that. All of this sounds easy, right? Say “no” here and “yes” there, and the council will follow your lead. It isn’t that simple.

As I have written in previous columns regarding comprehensive rezoning, it is just that. A comprehensive process that has taken two years of review by multiple appointed groups, county agencies and has been in deliberations before the council since April 2024. In the rezoning bills that were introduced to the county council, some requested changes were denied, others were approved, and some were recommended for a different zoning designation altogether.

Residents who didn’t participate in the two-year review process had the opportunity to submit late applications for a zoning change but were required to post public notice signs if a councilmember agreed to support their rezoning request. An application on paper doesn’t tell the story of the property owners, and many of the stories have been compelling ones, emotional, and some with histories that date back to the creation of our charter government. In all of these zoning change scenarios, the county council has the final say.

As I have reviewed each zoning change proposal and/or application, I have tried to balance both the landowners’ desires with those of the communities that make up our great district. It means balancing the vision for development from 20 years ago, with the reality of development that has happened in the years since, while trying to protect that character that makes our area so special. This has been no easy task.

What I could not have anticipated when I was running in 2018, was that we would be in a housing crisis and traffic concerns would only continue to grow. OK – so maybe I knew the latter would happen; it takes decades to fund major transportation infrastructure projects. What I didn’t anticipate was having a different perspective on land use and traffic, one that I have gained through my time on the council in the last six years.

So how did the housing crisis impact my review of comprehensive rezoning for our area? First, I did not approach my review believing that our district should provide the fix for the housing crisis through upzoning. The number of individual residential upzoning requests were a fraction of the proposed zoning changes compared to those that came from the county.

In most cases, the county was recommending zoning changes to multiple properties whose owners didn’t request a change, in order to accommodate the request of an individual application and ensure that the zoning map had contiguous properties of similar zoning. I do not fault the department for that and must acknowledge the willingness of staff at the Office of Planning and Zoning to work with me as I balanced the needs of the district through amendments to overturn their proposed upzonings.

Overturning their changes unfortunately left some applicants on islands in a sea of zoning that didn’t match their surroundings, like a suburban zoning designation in a predominantly rural-zoned area. Their requested zoning change was no longer as easy. The “no’s” to the county’s proposed zoning changes were easy – the ones to applicants were not. These are the hard decisions I knew would be part of this process.

There are properties in our district that have development potential, and have had it for at least 10 years, but the county was proposing to take that potential away through “consistency” changes. These lots are split zoned, with two residential zoning designations across the parcel. Several property owners reached out in opposition to this change. Again, I do not support the government taking land from a property owner, so it only made sense to restore as many of these split zones as possible.

Commercial zoning was also a large portion of consideration for our area. After feedback from the greater Severna Park area, I was able to successfully restore commercial (C3) zoning to the Severna Park Marketplace and Park Plaza from the proposed mixed-use commercial on 45 parcels that would have allowed for a multi-level mix of dwelling units, commercial, business offices and industrial uses if redevelopment were to happen on any of the lots.

When we talk about commercial businesses, we must also consider that when commercial is limited to areas that are farther away from residential areas, it will likely require a vehicular trip, which impacts our traffic. I approved several properties to move from a residential designation to small business, and yes, some will change to commercial. I am excited for one commercial zoning designation in particular as there is an effort to restore the Listman property on Earleigh Heights Road to the local commercial gathering that it once was. Hearing the stories of this family-owned business’ heyday several decades ago was a welcome trip down memory lane for those who testified in support. I truly enjoyed the stories.

While there have been great moments of success in this process, it has been a herculean effort. It is impossible to apply “consistency” in decisions where every proposal for change is unique. There were thousands of proposed changes to review and potentially amend in 95 days, the lifespan of council bills. While the occurrence is not historically seen, council members from other districts have been compelled to take on zoning changes that are rejected by the area representative. I believe it is due to the compelling public testimony and outreach from our engaged citizens that have led to this. While I personally have mixed feelings on the action, I think it speaks to how engaged the council is and the residents.

Comprehensive rezoning has been everything I was expecting and more. I committed to be transparent with you, share major proposed changes with you, and ask for your feedback. This was never my plan for what our district should look like in the next 10 years but our plan collectively. You responded, you showed up to testify, you joined me in this effort. Thank you.

It is an honor to serve you and your family. As always, you can reach out to me for any questions, concerns or feedback on legislation at


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