The dispute over preserving the remaining open space in the congested Towson area could draw a crowd to Loch Raven High School tonight as the Baltimore County Planning Board receives public comment on rezoning petitions in the 4th District.
One of the most controversial petitions involves a proposal by Giant Food to replace its store in the 6300 block of York Road with a larger, fancier version that's been nicknamed the "Gucci" Giant.
But the project would require Giant's buying three acres of the county-owned Forge Park behind the existing store, said Diana Itter, the community planner for the district.
County Planning Director P. David Fields said Giant would have to find other open land for a park to make up for the loss of almost half of the park where neighbors and recreation leagues use baseball diamonds, tennis courts and garden plots. Such land is scarce near Towson, he noted.
Another contested open-space issue in the 4th District concerns the 160-acre Country Club of Maryland, off Stevenson Lane near Stoneleigh. The Knollwood Donnybrook Community Association wants to down-zone the property -- decreasing the density of houses that could be built on it were it ever sold.
The owners of the club say they intend to continue operating it as a golf course, but won't be able to borrow money for much-needed improvements if the land is devalued, according to Mr. Fields. They have offered to enter into covenants with neighboring communities to prove their commitment against development.
But Mr. Fields noted that the county can not legally enter such covenants. This case, Mr. Fields said, shows why the county can't be a party to such agreements: If the golf course should fail, county recreation and parks officials probably would want to buy it for a much-needed public course. And the covenant would lower the price.
Residents of West Towson also are expected to be out in force at tonight's meeting. They have been battling for years to stop the law offices from spreading from Bosley Avenue and central Towson's government buildings into the side streets of their neighborhoods.
Residents have asked for several properties to be down-zoned, to allow improvements only to existing buildings, Ms. Itter said. They are opposed by the Towson Property Owners Association, which represents the owners of several properties who are requesting more intense business uses.
Bosley Avenue was set as the boundary between business and residences in last year's Towson Community Plan, Ms. Itter said. And the planning board staff favors the existing zoning designation, which allows property owners to raze structures to build small office buildings, she added.
Another of the 60 issues on the agenda tonight is a proposal to replace most of the old stone Dulaney Valley Apartments at Dulaney Valley Road and Fairmount Avenue with 1,100 high-rise units. The plan could fill the need for more housing in Towson, Mr. Fields said, but, for now, planners are recommending against the zoning change while they await more information on design and the possibility of including low-cost housing units in the building.