Changes will af­fect 500 prop­er­ties, thou­sands of acres across the county

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Pamela Wood Bal­ti­more Sun Me­dia Group re­porter Rachael Pa­cella con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle. pwood@balt­ twit­

Bal­ti­more County is set to vote an a se­ries of zon­ing changes that could af­fect 500 prop­er­ties and thou­sands of acres through­out the county.

The Bal­ti­more County Coun­cil will make a se­ries of zon­ing de­ci­sions this week that will guide devel­op­ment in the county for years to come.

Coun­cil mem­bers are sched­uled to vote Tues­day on the county’s Com­pre­hen­sive Zon­ing Map Process, a re­view con­ducted once every four years.

The de­ci­sions will af­fect thou­sands of acres on more than 500 prop­er­ties across the county.

Landown­ers, cit­i­zens groups and county of­fi­cials have pro­posed dozens of zon­ing changes rang­ing from com­mer­cial tracts in Ca­tonsville and Tow­son to res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties on the county’s east side to agri­cul­tural land in the north county.

Sev­eral coun­cil mem­bers say they plan to uti­lize a rel­a­tively new tool de­signed to pro­tect schools, parks and other coun­ty­owned prop­er­ties from devel­op­ment. Hun­dreds of acres are pro­posed for the Neigh­bor­hood Com­mons­des­ig­na­tion — a pro­vi­sion that po­ten­tially pre­vents the prop­erty from ever be­ing de­vel­oped.

The Com­mons des­ig­na­tion was orig­i­nally de­signed to pro­tect open space owned by com­mu­nity as­so­ci­a­tions, but was ex­panded last year to in­clude county-owned prop­er­ties.

That move came af­ter Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz’s con­tro­ver­sial moves to sell county prop­er­ties in­clud­ing the North Point Govern­ment Cen­ter in Dun­dalk and a fire sta­tion in Tow­son for pri­vate devel­op­ment.

Un­der pro­vi­sions of Neigh­bor­hood Com­mons, any prop­erty owner who wants to sell or de­velop the land would have to get the des­ig­na­tion re­moved dur­ing a zon­ing re­view process.

The county’s 5th Dis­trict, which stretches be­tween Tow­son and Perry Hall, has 161 re­zon­ing pro­pos­als un­der con­sid­er­a­tion Tues­day — the most of any of the county’s seven dis­tricts. Those re­quests in­clude sev­eral Neigh­bor­hood Com­mons des­ig­na­tions be­ing sought by Coun­cil­man David Marks, a Repub­li­can who rep­re­sents the dis­trict.

Other re­quests re­late to projects in the boom­ing Tow­son down­town. In the Tow­son Tri­an­gle — an area bounded by Bosley Av­enue, York Road and Tow­son­town Boule­vard — Marks has said he will not sup­port zon­ing changes sought by the Amer­i­can Le­gion Post on York Road and also by DMS Devel­op­ment, a com­pany hop­ing to build a stu­dent hous­ing high-rise in the area.

Joe La Bella, pres­i­dent of the Tow­son Manor Vil­lage Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion, called Marks’ decision a “great vic­tory,” but said res­i­dents re­main con­cerned about devel­op­ment pres­sures in the neigh­bor­hood.

Mean­while Katie Pin­heiro, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Greater Tow­sonCom­mit­tee, said the Tri­an­gle is a “gate­way” to down­town Tow­son that’s an eye­sore — and could be helped by new devel­op­ment.

At the other end of the dis­trict, Marks said, he plans to sup­port down­zon­ing more than 1,200 acres on sites through­out the area — a move he said will pre­vent fur­ther over­crowd­ing at Perry Hall mid­dle and high schools.

“I do not rel­ish tak­ing these steps, which I know will be op­posed by some prop­erty own­ers,” said Marks. “But we can­not al­low devel­op­ment to oc­cur … while these schools grow more and more crowded.”

The wishes of each coun­cil mem­ber weighs heav­ily in the process. Be­cause of the tra­di­tion of “coun­cil­manic cour­tesy,” other mem­bers of the coun­cil gen­er­ally sup­port what­ever each mem­ber wants in his or her dis­trict.

While Marks has an­nounced many of his zon­ing de­ci­sions in re­cent weeks, most other coun­cil mem­bers have elected to wait un­til the vote to an­nounce the bulk of their de­ci­sions.

The coun­cil will meet at 6 p.m. Tues­day in the His­toric Court­house at 400 Washington Ave. in Tow­son.

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