Baltimore County's 3rd Councilmanic District may appear rural in places, and sometimes even pristine. But, as the comprehensive rezoning process has wound its way through the valleys and open spaces that residents covet, the district has emerged as the major battleground for the ongoing fight between developers and residents, according to county planning director P. David Fields.
Tonight, the county Planning Board will hold a public hearing on almost 200 rezoning requests that range from cut-rate retail warehouses at the Owings Mills Town Center to strip-zoning along York Road to the fate of prime agricultural land and watersheds north of Hunt Valley. Planners expect a heated debate.
"There's a very active, well-organized and concerned citizenry," Mr. Fields said.
"There's a feeling of being overwhelmed by development in the area . . . and questions about the impact of impact [of development] on roads, water, schools, police and fire, all these sorts of services," he added.
One of the most controversial proposals on the agenda tonight is a developer's request that land in the Loch Raven watershed be rezoned to allow construction of 3,000 townhouses and condominiums at York and Phoenix roads.
The planning staff has recommended against the change, but the board must listen to the public before making its recommendations to the County Council.
Another proposal that has ignited citizen concern is Villa Julie College's request for rezoning that would allow it to double the size of its classroom and office capacity over the next 10 years, and to upgrade its sewage-treatment plant. Neighbors fear the construction would lead to the ruin of the Green Spring Valley, an area of scenic hills and expensive homes.
Among other contested petitions on the agenda tonight is a plan for a high-density apartment building for the elderly in Pikesville, proposed by the Associated Jewish Charities.
Also, Baltimore is asking the county to rezone 37 acres of its former Colts training facility in Owings Mills from industrial to business, to allow commercial development. County planners want to keep the city-owned property zoned for industrial use, Mr. Fields said, because industrial zoning encourages manufacturing, which provides jobs but doesn't generate the kind of traffic that a shopping center would.
Also on the agenda is a plan to preserve the small towns and scenic vistas along heavily traveled Route 30 by rerouting traffic around the towns and discouraging commercial strip zoning.
The 3rd District comprehensive rezoning hearing will be tonight at Dulaney High School, 255 Padonia Road in Timonium, at 7:30 pm. Sign-up for speakers begins at 6 p.m.