Manley breaks even in final stand

November 22, 1994|By Larry Carson and Pat Gilbert | Larry Carson and Pat Gilbert,Sun Staff Writers

The prospect of losing a vote never deterred County Councilwoman Berchie Lee Manley, and the Catonsville Republican played that role again at her final council session last night.

The 65-year-old community crusader lost re-election Nov. 8, but pushed her two final bills to a vote, although she lacked assurance of the four votes needed for passage.

The results of that final gamble were mixed -- one Manley bill passed unanimously, while the other failed on a 4-3 vote. The bill that passed creates a zoning classification limited to office uses. The bill that failed would have banned construction of new back-to-back townhouses in Baltimore County.

The council later approved a resolution that eventually will bring the townhouse issue before the County Council that will be sworn in Dec. 5.

Mrs. Manley's role as an uncompromising advocate who would rather go down in flames than budge was controversial during her term and during the election campaign, but she said circumstances seemed different this time.

She said she thought she had commitments for five votes in favor of her bills until the council's informal work session last week, when the only two members to win re-election objected, saying the bills should be held over for the new council.

Towson Republican Douglas B. Riley, 4th District, said he supports the concept of the bill, but objected that the rush to vote eliminated the usual process of public hearings and planning board consideration. That view, together with doubts from several members that banning the cheaper townhouses is a good idea, sealed the bill's fate. Perry Hall's councilman, Democrat Vincent Gardina, 5th District, also opposed the bill.

Despite facing an obvious loss, Mrs. Manley again refused to back down last night. She denounced the houses, which are essentially two rows of townhouses fused at the rear, charging that they "remove quality of life."

They have no back yards, she said, and deny families enough natural light, cross-ventilation, play areas for children and space for outdoor barbecues.

The townhouses are cheaper to build and sell, but opposed by some community groups who say they are unattractive and out of character with older single-family detached homes. Mrs. Manley has long opposed a proposed development of the units in Relay, which is in her district.

Only Mrs. Manley, Republican William A. Howard IV of Carney and Democrat Donald C. Mason of Dundalk, all lame-duck council members, voted for the back-to-back bill last night.

Mr. Howard, the council chairman, denounced the housing style as "dead-end housing" that enables higher profits for builders, but gives no benefit to renters or buyers.

The other bill, which did follow the normal route through planning board scrutiny and public hearings, creates a new zoning classification called O-3 which would allow only office construction in an area. Current classifications allow a mixtures of offices and high-density residential construction. Mrs. Manley said she wanted to make sure that if offices are planned and approved for a site, that only offices are built there.

After she explained her legislation at the council work session last week, Mr. Riley said the bills should be dealt with by the new council.

"I support this bill," said Mr. Riley of the group homes bill, "but on a substantive issue such as this, I believe it is better to let the new council wrestle with it."

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