Downzoning in Baltimore County Congestive relief: Comprehensive rezoning aims to lessen crowding in older suburbs.

November 20, 1995

EFFORTS TO lower the density of housing in older neighborhoods of Baltimore County by more restrictive zoning deserve the support of county government.

Overdevelopment, congestion and decay threaten aging communities on both the east and west sides of the county.

Reducing the number of townhouses and apartments in these densely-zoned areas, while encouraging single-family homes, is at the heart of the county's Community Conservation plans to revitalize and relieve crowding in older Beltway suburbs.

Through the quadrennial comprehensive rezoning process ending next fall, community groups and county planners are attempting to rezone nearly 3,000 acres in the Beltway neighborhoods of Essex-Middle River on the east side and Catonsville-Arbutus on the west side.

More than 400 rezoning requests were submitted to the county Planning Board, which can add to the list, as can the County Council, before public hearings begin next spring.

On the eastern side, the emphasis is on rezoning land now reserved for manufacturing and for multi-unit housing. Encouraging single-family homes construction would help to alleviate overcrowding in Essex-Middle River, which has three times the population density of other urban parts of the county.

Proposals for the west aim at downzoning vacant land parcels to preserve the neighborhood character and prevent the proliferation of apartments and townhouses that can overload the physical and social service infrastructure.

Along with the lower zoning requests, the county plans to demolish deteriorating large apartment complexes in Middle River, and to encourage their replacement with single-family housing. Riverdale Village has been wracked by drug dealing and other crime problems, Chesapeake Village has suffered from long-term dilapidation and a lack of sufficient tenant revenues to make needed repairs.

Downzoning would not affect existing townhouses and apartments but would block future high-density use in densely developed neighborhoods. With decidedly slowing growth, the county's future lies in revitalizing its older communities by relieving the pressures of overcrowding. That should be the appropriate focus of this cycle of comprehensive rezoning.

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