Comprehensive Rezoning And Fiscal Year Budget 2025


There is a saying that “you don’t know what you don’t know.” As the Anne Arundel County Council has been working through comprehensive rezoning, we are learning along the way, navigating new requirements that no other council had to consider during previous processes.

As I have written in previous columns, the county is required by state law to undertake comprehensive rezoning at regular intervals. Our county code provides that it shall be done every eight years. The county has been divided into nine regions, with three regions at a time under an extensive review process of zoning applications. Our district (District 5) is in Region 4 and is in the first round of review, along with Regions 2 (Jessup area) and 7 (Annapolis/Weems Creek area). Regions 2 and 7 have been underway since February 5 and will have their final hearing and vote in early May.

For each region, there are two sister bills. One bill updates the General Development Plans to coincide with the zoning changes proposed in the second bill. Our area’s rezoning process is just beginning, with the introduction of sister bills 27-24 and 28-24. There has already been a learning process with the bills the council has worked on for Regions 2 and 7. I will explain.

Most applicants seeking a change in zoning to their property have gone through a three-step, roughly 18-month review process. For those who applied late, there is a new requirement that they notify the public of their request to change their zoning by posting a sign on their property, including dates of the public hearing before the council.

This new step to comprehensive rezoning was initiated by a charter amendment that was passed by voters in 2018, but has not been necessary until now, as it only applies to ordinances related to comprehensive rezoning.

The charter amendment stipulated that notification was required. It did not detail the type of notification. The council could have done mailed letters, a simple post on the council website or an ad in the paper. Public notice signs on the property were decided because it was the most publicly visible option. The sign notification was well-intended to be as transparent as possible.

This county council passed Bill 69-23, effectively codifying these changes. During the public hearings on the bill, this council contemplated several time periods, including 10 days, 21 days and 30 days. Council staff who would be tasked with implementing this policy walked through the calendar backward to estimate the most amount of time the council could give without running into a timing issue. The bill required that a sign be posted to the public for 14 days for any late zoning applications moving forward as amendments to the zoning bill, and in circumstances where an amendment would be introduced that was neither the zone the applicant applied for, nor the zone that was given in the final recommendation. I think of these as “compromise amendments.”

After the passage of Bill 69-23, the legal interpretation was that a sign would also need to be posted on the subject property even in cases where the council would like the existing zoning to remain, but increased zoning has been recommended. Meaning, it would be harder for the council to prevent an upzoning situation.

I support the new sign requirements, but it was never my intention to make it harder to stop zoning changes or be unable to assist the everyday citizen who is asking for a simple zoning change because everything around them is a uniform zone and they are the outlier. I think the general public imagines large-scale zoning amendments with huge up-zoning. While these are possible, so are the small-scale ones. It also became clear that if I was compelled by public testimony to change something in our area, I could run out of time to introduce an amendment, because of the 14-day requirement.

Bill 26-24 was introduced to course-correct the challenges that comprehensive rezoning was facing. The bill removed the requirement of signs for any amendment that retained existing zoning. In its original form, the bill also reduced the required time for public posting from 14 days to seven days due to the challenges described, which include the time a late application takes to process, our legislative meeting schedule, consideration and discussion of potential amendments, creation of the signs, and pickup and placement of the signs. These all take time and coordination, even before a sign is placed on a property. Fourteen days is essentially 40 days when you calculate all of the steps necessary.

Bills for Regions 2 and 7 have had to be held several times, due in part to the timing challenge of the two-week sign requirement. The council has had to add a legislative meeting to the calendar to accommodate the impacts of these delays. The addition of legislative meetings to the calendar is available only in the month of May, as the option to have these meetings was intended for the budget process, which I will reference later. While I do not speak for the legislative body, I believe we did our best to estimate the time frame for sign notice, but now that we are actually navigating it, complications have been identified. Any notification is still a step toward more transparency. In past comprehensive rezoning years, councilmembers could introduce an amendment with no notification to the public.

The council did pass an amendment to make the sign requirement 10 days instead of seven. This was a compromise to give more days for public notification but still allow the council to have time to fulfill our duties during comprehensive rezoning, if a scenario arises that requires more time. Please keep in mind that someone applying late for a zoning change may never see the light of day with an amendment. It is the council’s decision on what late zoning requests will move forward as an amendment. Several late requests have already been told "no."

So how many proposed zoning changes are there in our area? The number is a bit daunting but ranges from small changes to larger ones.

There are 1,476 proposed changes. They are broken out as follows:

  • 46 are owner applications to change the zoning on their property.

  • 71 proposed zoning changes are from county staff (no property owner application to change zoning).

  • 2 are proposed by the Planning Advisory Board.

  • 1,354 proposed zoning changes come from the county. A lot of these are small map adjustments so that lot lines and zoning lines line up. But others are large-scale zoning changes over multiple properties. I am already hearing from community members about these changes, and I will reference one below.

The lion's share of proposed zoning changes are coming from the county, not private property owners and/or developers. I don't have a lot of concern over the small map adjustments, but I do have concerns over large-scale changes with no owner application.

A prime example of these types of changes is in the heart of the Severna Park commercial area (Park Plaza and Severna Park Marketplace and commercial areas north). The county has proposed changing this area from commercial (C3) to MXD-commercial.

What is the difference between C3 and MXD-Commercial?

Residential uses are permitted by right in MXD-C zones, whereas in C3 zones, they are allowed only in certain conditions. Which means, if any of these properties were to be redeveloped, multifamily dwellings would be permitted uses along with commercial, and there are prescriptive percentages of what is to be developed on the property: 15% to 45% residential, 40% to 60% retail, 10% to 40% office space, 0% to 25% industrial.

C3 conditions limit the number of multifamily dwellings to 15 units per acre and require 50% of the floor area of the development to be commercial. There is no office space requirement and industrial uses would not be permitted without variances.

In essence, this proposed zoning change could allow for more to be done on the properties than what is already allowed. I am considering amendments that would retain the existing commercial (C3) zoning, especially considering this was not property-owner driven.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and others as I review proposals for our district. I am so grateful to the Severna Park Voice for the opportunity to bring this important information to you, but also know a lot will happen between this edition and next month’s. If you would like more regular information as we move through this process, please reach out to the District 5 office and request to be added to the regular e-newsletter distribution list.

I have always been transparent and honest with residents of District 5 and members of the public. Some decisions in this process will be harder than others, but I will always communicate with residents along the way.

Please note that the Fiscal Year 2025 budget session begins with the county executive’s presentation of his proposed budget on May 1. Please visit the council website for budget hearing information.

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  • BenetT

    Apartment buildings in Severna Park? 21146 is not Waugh Chapel! This County is losing its soul...another MoCo/HoCo in the making!

    Thursday, May 2 Report this