01 February 2008

Planning Board Approved most of Wegmans Plan

Last night the Howard County Planning Board held a worksession on the proposed Wegmans site development plan. The discussion, in front of a full house of onlookers, was marked by the serious tone of the board members and the wide range of topics covered. Ultimately, the Planning Board approved the SDP, but refused to allow a 92 foot clock tower.

The basis for denying the tower height lies within an apparent disconnect between New Town Zoning and the height restrictions in the Final Development Plan.

The Howard County Zoning Regulations, Section 125 – New Town District, Part E(4) states:

4. Adjustments to Bulk Regulations for Individual Lots

Upon the request of the owner of a particular lot, the Planning Board may approve parking, setback, height, lot coverage, or other bulk requirements for such lot or parcel which differ from those required by the applicable Final Development Plan, in accordance with the following procedures:

The procedures detail review in a public meeting, required drawings, and part C states:

In addition to the notice for public meetings required by the Planning Board’s Rules of Procedure, the property that is the subject of the application shall be posted with the date, time, and place of the meeting for at least 15 days immediately before the public meeting.

This was contrasted with the text regarding height in the Final Development Plan. The test states (and I am paraphrasing here):

The maximum height limit will be 50 feet, except that height determined by the Planning Board.

So the discussion by Planning Board members oscillated between the Zoning Regs and the Final Development Plan. Was a height limit beyond 50 feet on this lot different from what was required in the Final Development Plan? Ultimately, the Planning Board decided that signs should have been posted to allow a change in height.

So the Site Development Plan has been approved and (at least for now) the clock tower has been dis-allowed. I suppose moving forward, Wegmans will most likely seek building permits for the site. Meanwhile, the Final Development Plan change is on appeal and will be heard by the Howard County Hearing Examiner in the next few weeks.


Anonymous said...

A 92 foot tall clock tower? For a grocery store? Why?

Between that, the sky-sweeping searchlights from the car dealership and the computer superstore, and more and more and larger and larger neon signage screaming at people passing by on the roads, is there any hope that the east side of Columbia can avoid becoming as unaesthetic as other less planned commercial areas along County roadways?

Using the sky as a banner will only invite more businesses to do the same.

Anonymous said...

The Wegman's is replacing a warehouse. And a clock tower is "unaesthetic"?

Anonymous said...

A faux town's photons make me want to lay on my futon.

The existing warehouse, relative to a 92 foot tall structure, is much shorter, and doesn't obscure the night or day sky.

Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but at that height, visible for miles, many beholders will find it pales in comparison to the beauty of the sky.

If approved, won't other businesses, existing or to come, then firmly expect similar use of our common vistas to lure shoppers? Who knows what beauty awaits.

Goodnight Moon.

Young at Heart said...

A 92-foot tower can be seen for miles? I don't think so. Well, maybe in the plains of Kansas, but not in Columbia. I live within several miles of Town Center, but can't see any of the buildings there from my house, although I'm sure several of them are taller than 92 feet. Of course that may be because the tall trees in the area (some are over 100 feet) are blocking my view!

Anonymous said...

There is a picture of the clock tower at http://www.wegmans.com/about/ and you can see it in person at the store in Hunt Valley. Wegmans will be a wonderful addition to Columbia.

Anonymous said...

A structure that tall really can be seen for miles. On the flat plains of Kansas, it would be visible about 16 miles away (wiki horizon if you're truly interested). In Columbia, depending on the direction, that distance could be less (because of obstructions) or more (because of the topography to the south and east being lower). The closest homes and park area are less than a half mile away anyway.

While I doubt the trees to be included (or kept) onsite will be as tall as that structure, the onus shouldn't be on taller offsite trees (not very effective in winter anyway) to prevent visibility.

Wegmans Rocks said...

As a reference, the the nearby water tower be seen from any reisdences?