The County Council this week approved legislation to change the terms under which non-residential uses are allowed in residential neighborhoods, which are called "special exceptions."
The legislation was introduced by Councilmembers Betty Ann Krahnke and Marilyn Praisner and requires the Board of Appeals to consider all the effects a special exception would have on a neighborhood.
The legislation requires applicants to prove that the special exception use will not have an adverse effect on the surrounding community. Previously, applicants only had to prove that the use would not have any more of an adverse impact than in any similarly zoned location. With this change, the Board is required to look at the impact of the use on the specific neighborhood where the use would operate. The Board of Appeals also will have to put more emphasis on whether that use is compatible with the recommendations of the area master plan.
"This legislation is about giving the Board of Appeals a more balanced set of rules to assist their decision making," said Councilmember Krahnke. "It is about putting the burden of proof back on the applicant so that neighborhoods and special exceptions are compatible."
Under the legislation, any person may request on a transfer of land ownership a review of a special exception to determine if it still meets the conditions and criteria under which the special exception originally was granted. The person requesting the review must show substantial evidence that the existing conditions on the special exception are inadequate.
"Right now, special exceptions are neither ‘special’ nor ‘exceptional,’’ said Councilmember Phil Andrews. "There are legitimate reasons for special exceptions and this legislation is not going to do away with special exceptions. What it will do is protect communities from development that has a particularly negative impact."