When I was campaigning to represent District 5 on the Anne Arundel County Council, I called the General Development Plan (GDP) "the single most important piece of legislation this council will work on."
I committed to examining each land use change request, and I gave my word that transparency and communication would be at the forefront of my approach to tackling this enormous piece of legislation. One that comes only once every eight years.
On April 19, the council debated amendments 56 through 128 — a six-hour meeting discussing and debating most amendments. Roughly half a dozen failed. All others passed with bipartisan support.
That evening, I introduced about a dozen amendments, each of which gained super majority support.
The most complicated of the amendments, at least in my opinion, was Amendment 63, also known as the "small business" amendment. This amendment added a new land use into Plan 2040. It was the most time-intensive effort to correct the removal of the small-business land use category that was proposed in the original land use plan.
Small-business land use was developed decades ago, as a transitional tool for those properties which are not residential, and yet aren't commercial. They are unique and blend in with the surrounding characteristics of the community.
District 5 has many examples of how this land use tool yields great outcomes. You probably don’t even realize what they are as you drive by them along Route 2 or Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard. These are houses or smaller structures, with little to no signage, yet there is a flourishing business or nonresidential operation inside.
In the initial GDP draft, the Office of Planning and Zoning merged small business under "commercial" land use as a zoning category under this larger intensified commercial umbrella. This forced businesses — those that wished to have only small-business zoning — to request commercial land use, a category that includes up to the most intense commercial zoning of C4, which includes car dealership lots and larger commercial developments.
In most cases, these small business owners have lots located in residential areas, have residential land use or residential zoning. The potential for intensified commercial zoning took these properties out of the transitional realm that they and the community were both supportive of.
My amendment corrected this obstacle by reinstating the small-business land use and giving those parcels, best fit for this type of land use, the desired request.
In addition, there were several properties in our district that were given commercial land use with the merger of small business in the original GDP. This was done without discussion from the community during the drafting process and without a land use application. I found this to conflict with the commitment I made to each of you, for a transparent general development process. My amendment moved each of these properties into the newly reinstated small business land use category. In this land use, only small business or residential zoning is applicable. A much more transitional use of those properties.
This was a big lift, but it was an important one for our district and other areas of our county. With the support of my colleagues, the amendment passed with a super majority vote. A win for small business and a win for residents of our county.
Plan 2040, or Bill 11-21, will come before the council for its final public hearing and vote on May 3. Within this document is the schedule for regional plans. Our district, District 5, is part of Region 4. Region 4 is one of three regions scheduled in the first round of regional plans. There are nine regions total that encompass all of Anne Arundel County. Three regions at a time will have an active “deep dive” by appointed stakeholder advisory committees (SACs). These committees will look closely at land use trends, historical information, infrastructure, traffic, environmental features and much more. They will understand the goals, policies and strategies in the GDP, while seeking the input of residents in the region. These committees will review again the land use change applications that were submitted during the Plan 2040 process, and new ones that have never been seen before.
Each of the seven councilmembers will appoint one member to the region or regions they represent. The county executive, through a resolution voted on by the county council, will appoint the remining members. Who are these members? They are you.
Parent Teacher Organization parents, local business owner, property owner, renter, young adult, environmental organization, real estate broker, community or social organization. If you live here, if you work here, you could help shape the future of our district for decades to come.
For the past several months, I have fulfilled my commitment to give my full attention to the General Development Plan and collaborate with communities and residents across the fifth district. Now I ask you to consider the big responsibility of taking the deep dive, which will shape what our area looks like for future generations.
If you are interested in serving on the regional plans stakeholder advisory committee and would like more information, or if you have any other matters I may assist with, please reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please be sure to follow the Anne Arundel County Council website in the coming weeks as the county council is set to work on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, as presented by the county executive on April 30. Your hard-earned tax dollars are at play and I will work to make sure you aren’t a piggy bank for government spending.