Despite opposition from the Hayden administration, the Baltimore County Council has voted 6 to 1 to approve two new maritime business zoning classifications that will place more controls on marinas and boat yards.
The bill also prevents the zoning commissioner from granting variances or changes in the height of the boat racks, which the measure restricts to 30 feet. The Hayden administration had opposed placing restrictions on the commissioner's authority. Under county zoning law, the zoning commissioner has virtually unlimited authority to grant variances to zoning restrictions.
The bill, which was supported by waterfront community groups and the Maritime Trade Association of Baltimore County, is only the third instance in which the zoning commissioner's authority is limited in this area.
Before passage of the maritime business bill, marinas and boat yards in the 5th Councilmanic District were special exceptions in residential zones, meaning they needed the zoning commissioner's approval. Similar approval also was needed for additions, such as installing boat racks.
Marinas and boat yards in residential zones can now continue as special exceptions, or apply for a new zoning classification. The new zones give the county and the communities more control over marinas and boat yards. The bill also streamlines the bureaucratic process by which marina and boat yard owners change or improve their businesses.
County Executive Roger B. Hayden supported the bill but opposed the section that restricted the zoning commissioner's authority. Merreen E. Kelly, county administrative officer, said it is unlikely Mr. Hayden would veto the measure because the council has the five votes necessary to override a veto.
Mr. Kelly said the administration didn't like chipping away at the zoning commissioner's authority. He said the county executive preferred an earlier version of the bill that had been passed by the zoning board.
Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, who sponsored the legislation, said he added the section restricting the zoning commissioner's powers after the planning board approved the bill. "Community groups felt that requests to build boat racks were too routinely granted by the zoning commissioner," he said. "They wanted more protection from these monstrosities."
In some cases, boat racks built near residential properties are four levels high, or about 40 feet.
Mr. Gardina threatened to pull the bill if the restriction on the commissioners' authority to alter the height of boat racks was removed.
Councilman Donald C. Mason, D-7th, who voted against the bill, said he too was concerned about limiting the zoning commissioner's authority.