Chairman Dombrowski and members of the Planning Board:
The Howard County League of Women Voters opposes Zoning Regulation Amendment 127 that proposes to define Residential Treatment Center as a type of residential psychiatric facility and to define Specialized Rehabilitation Program Center. In addition, the Zoning Regulation proposes to add these uses as a matter of right in the M-1 and M-2 Districts as well as in the New Town District final development plans that permit M-1 uses and in properties in approved Mixed Use Developments in the MXD District that permit M-1 uses.
The League's opposition includes the following:
The general public, based on the title of ZRA 127, would have no idea of the nature of the zoning regulation proposed. In reviewing the Planning Board agenda a member of the public would not know what change was proposed and could reasonably assume if fairly new to the County that McLaughlin was a property owner. It is actually a problem with most ZRA's. Other than names nothing in the ZRA title describes the proposed regulation amendment. When the Department of Planning and Zoning is proposing the regulation change the title should be the Department.
The Department of Planning and Zoning proposes in a revised Exhibit A that the original regulation proposal " Hospitals, intermediate care facilities and residential treatment centers" to the M-1 District as a matter of right be changed to "residential psychiatric facilities and specialized physical rehabilitation facilities." The justification for the change is these uses are in demand. However, no data is provided.
Specialized physical rehabilitation services seem to be readily available in the County with at least 12 facilities listed in the Howard County Black Book yellow page under Rehabilitation services and over 40 Physical Therapy facilities. The locations of these facilities include Columbia, Elkridge, Woodbine, Ellicott City, Marriottsville and Laurel. The League assumes the locations of these facilities are under zoning that already permits them as a matter of right and that there are sufficient opportunities for new or expanded development with out utilizing current manufacturing zoned M-1 or M-2 land.
Residential Treatment Centers defined as "a psychiatric institution that provides campus based evaluation and treatment of individuals with sever and chronic emotional disturbance that require a self contained therapeutic, educational, and recreational program in a residential setting," describes the matter of right uses permitted in the Planned Office Research District (POR). The County currently permits a fairly large facility providing psychiatric and other services on POR zoned land.
Another issue is residential settings within M-1 and M-2 Districts. The Manufacturing Districts are established to permit a mix of manufacturing, warehousing and business uses with provisions for limited retail sales. Day treatment or care facilities are matter of right uses but do not provide over night accommodations. Hotels, motels, country inns and conference centers are matter of right uses clearly with over night provisions but not long-term extended stays. Mobile home sales, but not occupancy, are a matter of right use and a M-1 conditional use is the use of a mobile home limited to security purposes.
Given the broad application of the proposed regulation change to all M-1 and M-2 zoned land, plus New Town zoned land with Final Development plans that permit M-1 use as well as MXD Districts that permit M-1 uses, the League suggests that the consideration of these matter of right uses be done during the County's comprehensive zoning. The League asks that the Planning Board recommend denial of ZRA 127.
**Note: While presenting the testimony it was pointed out that the request to change the Zoning Regulations was limited to residential psychiatric facilities.
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