Keeping South County Rural

Keeping South County Rural

This appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Capital on 8/20/11

It is clear that the heartfelt desire of the majority of South County residents is to “keep South County rural”.  Years of efforts have gone into developing Small Area Plans which supported this principle by limiting commercial growth south of the intersection of Route 214 and Solomon’s Island Road.   These Small Area Plans were incorporated into 2009’s General Development Plan, which the Office of Planning & Zoning used to determine which recent zoning requests were compatible with the resident’s long-term vision for South County.

Unfortunately, the County Council appears ready to approve over 40 amendments to the Comprehensive Zoning Bill for Council Districts 6 and 7 over the objections of the Office of Planning and Zoning.  Taken together, these amendments have the potential to fundamentally alter the character of South County.

Other counties are doing a better job protecting their rural areas.  Baltimore County established an Urban-Rural Demarcation Line in 1967, with vastly different land use and zoning requirements for the two-thirds of the county designated rural.  Economic development in the rural areas is limited primarily to commercial activities associated with agriculture, although some non-agricultural businesses are allowed in rural commercial centers and villages.  In 1980, Montgomery County created an Agricultural Reserve, protecting its agricultural and rural open space in one-third of the county through zoning and permanent easements restricting development. 

Our comprehensive zoning process allows the whim of an individual Council member to overturn years of planning.  Anne Arundel County needs to consider stronger methods of protecting our rural areas such as those effective in nearby counties. In the meantime, we can only hope that the Council reconsiders many of the amendments to Bill 44-11. Once South County’s beautiful rural character is lost, it is gone for good.

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