County Council Adopts Amendment to Open Space Bill No. 15-12
Prior to the meeting Councilman Benoit offered the following statement with regard to his amended bill:
“The amendment aggressively addresses concerns raised by land conservationists. The proposed amendment to Bill 15-12 distinguishes between passive recreational uses and active recreational uses. Passive recreational uses require only minimal changes to the site and preserve natural features. Active recreational uses require special facilities, courses, fields, or equipment. The amendment allows passive recreational uses as a permitted use and active recreational uses as a conditional use.
The amendments impose stringent clearing conditions on active recreational uses. No more than 25% of the site may be cleared. There are no clearing prohibitions at all for other uses in our Code. Under the current code, a golf course, for example, may clear as many trees as may be needed to build the course. Furthermore, the 25% limitation on clearing is the strictest limitation in the Code. Even in the critical area, it is possible to clear up to 30% of the site with the approval of the Office of Planning and Zoning. See 17-8-601(a).
The amendments also impose stringent planting requirements on active recreational uses. For every acre cleared, 1.5 acres must be planted. This means that Annapolis Roads will actually gain forestation compared to its currently cleared state.
In the critical area, by contrast, for clearing up to 25% of the site, the planting requirement is equal to the area cleared. Thus, this bill imposes an even more aggressive replanting/conservation requirement than the Critical Area laws. Furthermore, for every acre of certain active recreational uses created, yet another one-half acre must be planted and forever preserved through an easement.
The amendments impose setback requirements, primarily for the purpose of ensuring that active recreational uses are at least 100 feet from a dwelling and 200 feet from any stream, river or waterway. The uses are also subject to an approved soil conservation and water quality plan.
The amendments include two requirements relating to lighting. First, except for lighting required for safety purposes, outdoor lighting fixtures may not be on after 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays through Sundays or after 11:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Second, outdoor lighting must be located or equipped with shielding devices so that the lighting has no more than minimal offsite impact.
Finally, to prohibit the building of large stadiums in open space zoning districts, the amendments limit the seating capacity of bleachers or stands to no more than 300 people. That figure is roughly 1/4 the size of the smallest high school stadium in our County. By way of contrast the stadiums at our public high schools seat on average over 2000 people.
I am not sure any bill we might wait on can do more to protect sensitive OS zoned property than this amendment accomplishes. As you will hear tonight, the Administration plans to introduce a comprehensive rewrite if my bill fails or I withdraw it. The Office of Planning and Zoning will testify that the bill it introduces will permit active recreation at the Annapolis Roads Golf Course and every other golf course without the protections Bill 15-12 will provide once it is amended….”
Click here to see Amendment to Bill No. 15-12.