Defining Zoning Downward

Mayor Pushes for Relaxed Restrictions

BLYTHEWOOD – Mayor J. Michael Ross called for a revamping of the town’s Master Plan and specifically of the Town Center District (TCD) at the Town Council work session at the Golf Club in Cobblestone Park Tuesday morning. He had expressed at the Nov. 29 meeting that his goal is to relax not only the town’s sign laws, but what he considered too restrictive zoning in the TCD.

“I don’t want to give you the wrong impression when I say (the town) is not going to look like the suave picture of the Town Center District that sits there in the conference room,” Ross told the Council members, “but it probably will not. It was probably wonderfully planned out 10 years ago. But I don’t know if the town can ever be developed like that. I think it’s time for this Council to revisit this and have a more practical vision for a new Master Plan that incorporates more economic development as much as anything.”

Ross said he had asked Town Administrator Gary Parker to provide Council members with background about how the Master Plan came about. In that report that was handed out at the meeting, Parker described the TCD as the heart of Blythewood and included any future residential parts of town that would be developed in the district along with the commercial area of Blythewood Road and McNulty Road. The TCD regulations and design standards, Parker wrote, were to create a pedestrian-oriented area where people could walk to shopping and dining – places like Reston, Va.; Columbia, Md.; Cary, N.C. and Baxter Village/Town Center, S.C. He concluded that while these towns are regularly in the top 10 of CNN Money’s top-rated cities to live in, the only subject of Council’s work session discussion in this regard would be whether or not this model is right for Blythewood. While the mayor had made it clear that this was not his vision for the town, he asked the other members their views.

Councilman Bob Massa pointed out that the town had spent nearly $300,000 on the Plan in 2009 and that it was made law by a previous Council in 2010. Massa, who campaigned for a tweaking of the Master Plan, also pointed out some of its benefits. He said earlier in the meeting that anyone walking or biking in Blythewood was risking their life. The Plan calls for more accessible walking and biking trails in the TCD.

Councilman Tom Utroska said that while there were numerous committees involved with the creation of the Master Plan, many of the committees’ suggestions were ignored. He would like to have more solid citizen input.

Councilman Bob Mangone suggested a visit to Little Mountain, a town he thinks is more in line with the kind of town Blythewood could become. Ross suggested a subcommittee made up of members of the Planning Commission and Chamber of Commerce study the issue and report to Council.

Parker suggested asking Wayne Schuler of the Central Midlands Council of Governments, and who assists the town government in reviewing and revising its Comprehensive Land Use Plan every five years as required by state law, to also assist in reassessing the Master Plan.