Commission talks Beck and Mixed Use Zone at Marathon 4 Hour Meeting
On Monday, February 27th, the Planning Commission held a lengthy meeting to make decisions on various topics including the plan for the upcoming Beck Development charrette, an update to Mixed Use Zoning, and a storage facility being built in close proximity to the Twin Ridge neighborhood.
Beck Charrette Scheduled for late April:
Background: A charrette is a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts with a development plan and map solutions. For background, town code requires the Planning Commission to conduct one or more charrettes for proposed Mixed Use developments. After multiple citizens spoke out about the town not following the standard charrette process outlined by the National Charrette Institute, the town decided to follow the standard and enable all stakeholders to provide input to the pre-concept plan for the Beck property and future developments.
Outcome: After an hour and half of discussion, including citizen and development team comments, the Planning Commission went forward with the following plan to address community concerns:
Charrette will tentatively be held the following dates (contingent on venue availability):
Saturday, April 22nd - 1:00 - 5:00 PM (includes presentation & feedback)
Monday, April 24th - 6:00 - 10:00 PM (repeat of Day 1 format)
Tuesday, April 25th - 2:00 - 9:00 PM
The town will look into obtaining independent volunteer facilitators
Watch: View the whole charrette discussion below. Note this topic 1 hour and 35 minutes in length.
Mixed Use Ordinance 2023-1 Gets Favorable Recommendation:
The Planning Commission, in a 2-2-2 split vote, made a favorable recommendation to the Town Council for a new ordinance introduced by Town Council member Karl Munder. The intent of the ordinance is to provide uniformity across the Town's residential zoning codes, make Mixed Use developments more harmonious with the character of the town, and increase open space requirements. If ultimately passed by the council, the ordinance would make the following updates to the town's Mixed Use code (98-61 & 112-37.2):
Increase minimum open space required from 10% to 25% with ability to adjust down to 20%
Townhouse requirements would follow existing town code for townhomes
Ratio for Residential/Commercial mix (75/25) would be based on net developable acreage instead of gross developable acreage
Density would change from a maximum 8 units per gross developable acreage to 7 units per net developable acreage.
Townhome rows would have 5 or less homes per group as opposed to no restrictions in today's code.
Lot size minimums would align with current zoning code for residential districts.
Add a requirement for a 20 ft. buffer from the edge of a right-of-way to a highway and place forest conservation in between.
Needless to say, the Beck development team and owners' attorney are not in favor of this ordinance. Interesting/questionable statements from the development team included:
From Cecily Bedwell, Design Collective:
"The game is afoot. It would be akin to changing the rules of a game once the game has started. There is a time and a place to change ordinances. Usually, it's after it's been tested...you might see things you would like to see revised after a first case is submitted."
"To increase the amount of open space double fold is a taking. You're taking away the right of the property owner to develop."
"MXD was in process for a long time before 2020. As the consultant for the 2018 effort, we recommended 8% [open space] for the zoning."
"We advise against large ball fields, large recreational facilities...because it's counter to the walkability. You also had a park right next door."
From Clark Wagner, Pleasants Development:
"It’s only fair if you let our plan go forward with the multi step review process that we planned out rather than change the rules in the middle of the game."
From David Bowersox, Beck Family Attorney:
Addressing the fact the original MXD meetings took place during COVID: "I participated in some of them. I found the way to be present. I have a family, but it's important." (Might he have been on retainer and getting paid to be present?)
"It's not fair."
Council member Munder and the Beck attorney, however, rightly pointed out that Maryland is a late vesting state. Late vesting in Maryland essentially means that until shovel hits dirt, the property owner is subject to changes in zoning law. The Maryland General Assembly addressed this by encouraging municipalities to adopt Developer Rights and Responsibilities Agreements (DRRA). While Mount Airy did pass an ordinance allowing DRRAs, there is no such agreement between the town and the developers regarding the Beck Property.
A public hearing on this ordinance will be scheduled at the March Town Council meeting.
Watch: View the whole MXD discussion below. Note: This discussion is 1 hour and 16 minutes in length.
Favorable Recommendation for Storage Facility
After much discussion, public comment, and a motion from the VanMar Associates engineer, the Planning Commission, in a 5-1 vote, gave a favorable recommendation for a CubeSmart storage facility adjacent to the Twin Ridge residential neighborhood with the following conditions:
Development must meet town and county conditions
Emergency exit will remain an exit on Park Ridge
Two more street lights will be added to the plan
The brick facade will be changed to match the Twin Ridge Lot 3 and 4 colors.