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County Council revisits open space land protections in new bill

The Anne Arundel County Council passed a law in May that made small changes to the county's zoning rules. The law allows recreational uses in open spaces, paving the way for ball fields and similar projects. Critics, including the councilman from Annapolis, said the law did not go far enough in strengthening protections of environmentally sensitive open spaces.

A new bill before the council may do the trick. Where the first law affected only recreational uses, this bill addresses all uses of open spaces with bogs, wetlands, flood plains, streams and steep slopes. The restrictions are not necessarily bans, though. While volunteer fire stations and sports-related structures are banned, the council may allow recreational piers and similar projects on a limited basis.

Neither the new law nor the proposed bill will offer residents of Annapolis Roads relief in their fight against a local school's plans for the Annapolis Golf Course. The school wants to build ball fields and some outdoor areas next to a residential area. According to a county planning official, the bill would not apply to the golf course because the area is not environmentally fragile.

If the council would consider an amendment to the bill, though, there may be hope for the residents. One homeowner suggested that the council include a special exception in the bill that would require a public hearing before the county would approve an active recreational use on open land adjacent to a residential area.

The Annapolis council member said the amendment could work, but he wondered, too, if the homeowners' concerns should be addressed in a separate bill. Public hearings about the proposed bill may help to determine the better option.

Source: Capital Gazette, "Council considers new open space bill," Allison Bourg, Sept. 4, 2012

Our firm handles land use, zoning and development matters like the one discussed above. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Annapolis zoning and land use page.

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