Realistic Plan for Reviving Towson

July 18, 1991

So many studies and proposals have been made to revitalize Towson over the past decade that the very topic is often met with boredom. This is the wrong time to yawn, though. The Baltimore County Planning Board is about to send to the county council a blueprint that could drastically alter, by Christmas, the rules of development not only in Towson but in a larger area bounded by the city line, Charles Street, Seminary Avenue, the beltway and Loch Raven Boulevard.

The following are among major changes that would take place under the plan, which will be discussed in a board meeting

today:

No future projects in downtown Towson would be exempted from the county's adequate facilities provisions, a change that could halt additional high-rise projects until traffic congestion is resolved. Meanwhile, the height of new structures would be limited to 130 feet (for commercial uses) or 160 feet (for residential uses). In cases of redevelopment, new construction would have to be designed to step back from the street edge of existing two- or three-story retail buildings.

In all residential areas covered by the plan, special exceptions and zoning variances would be strictly curtailed. No additional non-residential zoning would be allowed and any infill housing would have to conform with the existing density of the surrounding area. Even stricter preservation guidelines would apply to East Towson, an old black residential community that has shrunk over the years as downtown Towson has kept expanding.

"The well-maintained, richly landscaped neighborhoods that surround the core are a major asset to Towson and must be sustained," says the 60-page plan, which also proposes significant changes in traffic patterns, building design standards and streetscaping. "Towson, which continues to realize dramatic growth, has a unique opportunity to be the city of Baltimore County, and a symbol of the county's identity."

We welcome the Towson plan as a realistic and long-overdue blueprint that finally begins returning orderliness to the hodge-podge building of recent decades. It comes none too soon. Major projects now being erected in Towson only underscore the county seat's traffic problems and lack of consistent planning.

The board and the county council should waste no time approving the Towson plan. It is an essential step to guide the council through the comprehensive rezoning process, which starts next month. Any delay would only aggravate the myriad problems that haphazard development has bequeathed to the county's center for government and finance.

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