Balto. County bills focus on rezoning, rural preservation

May 04, 2004|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County councilman introduced bills last night to stop developers from building on property being considered for rezoning, ensure the compatibility of new development to existing neighborhoods and provide more protections for rural land.

Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat, said he hopes to eliminate the race against the clock for some developers to win approval for building plans before the council votes in August on its quadrennial comprehensive rezoning cycle. Councilmen are considering hundreds of rezoning requests around the county, and in several instances property owners, apparently fearing the councilmen will approve stricter zoning, have accelerated development plans, Kamenetz said.

One such case is the Worthington Valley Country Club, whose owners filed a residential development proposal shortly after neighbors requested more restrictive zoning for the 110-acre site on Greenspring Avenue. Robert A. Hoffman, the attorney for the property owner, acknowledged that the timing of the development proposal was influenced by the rezoning request, but insists that the plan for 53 single-family homes there is a good use of the property.

Kamenetz called the plan "horrendous."

"I think a hurriedly filed project doesn't offer the benefit of sound judgment in the reviewing process," Kamenetz said.

The bill would affect the Worthington property and others up for consideration in this zoning cycle.

Two other bills Kamenetz introduced would set standards designed to maintain rural landscapes near homes in the RC 3 and RC 5 zones, increase the minimum lot size for RC 5 from 1 to 2 acres and reclassify RC 3 as an agricultural preservation zone.

In an effort to tackle concerns about residential development in established neighborhoods, Kamenetz introduced a fourth bill, which would create a design review process for new homes in parts of the county designated by the council.

Presently, a design review panel made up of architects or other design professionals considers commercial developments in the downtown areas of Arbutus, Catonsville, Essex, Pikesville and Towson. This bill would allow the council to designate certain residential neighborhoods for similar review by a panel that would also include lay representatives from the community where a development is proposed.

The panel's decision would be binding on the county's zoning commissioner, unless he determined that the group had overstepped its bounds.

Dick Parsons, co-chairman of the Community Conservation Advisory Group, said the proposal might help lessen anxiety about development in existing neighborhoods, which is growing more frequent as undeveloped land in the county is becoming scarce.

The council is scheduled to discuss the measures at its June 1 work session.

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