Balto. Co. sites targeted for `renaissance'

Community would get input on development

February 07, 2005|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A second Baltimore County councilman is planning to introduce a series of bills tonight that would earmark land in his district for County Executive James T. Smith Jr.'s signature plan for the revitalization of older neighborhoods.

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina's proposal to designate three parcels - in Towson and the Loch Raven area - is the second since council members approved legislation in December that created a community-intensive development process for selected projects in selected neighborhoods.

Two bills introduced by Councilman Kevin Kamenetz last month that would make areas along Reisterstown Road south of the Beltway in Pikesville eligible for the legislation are scheduled for a council vote tonight.

Both councilmen said they have not been approached by developers interested in using the new process established by the legislation, which allows them to bypass the traditional development route in favor of consensus-driven community planning meetings.

But Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat, said he is hoping that highlighting the two areas will bring attention to the specific parcels and to recent redevelopment efforts in Pikesville.

"My feeling is being the first area that's designated is a good PR tool to attract attention to continue the momentum," he said.

Gardina, a Towson-Perry Hall Democrat, said that earmarking three areas for "renaissance opportunity" under the legislation will provide more redevelopment options for the areas, some of which have crime problems, others old run-down properties or vacant lots.

The legislation allows developers of certain projects to bypass a property's current zoning and creates a clean slate for community members, the developer's team and government officials to use a series of planning meetings known as a "charrette" to draw up a development plan. Projects move forward only if at least 80 percent of the community participants agree on the plan.

"I think it's possible [the legislation] could be enough of an incentive to get developers interested in doing a project," Gardina said.

The three areas Gardina said he is planning to highlight include the southwest corner of Towsontown Boulevard and York Road in Towson, an area between Loch Raven Boulevard and Hillsway Avenue that includes several older apartment complexes, and a commercial strip in the Joppa Road corridor between Perring Parkway to just west of Loch Raven Boulevard.

Bills detailing the first two areas had been drafted by Friday afternoon and appeared on the council's agenda for introduction tonight. Officials said they were working on legislation for the third parcel.

The new legislation allows for the creation of "an above and beyond project" that might not happen under the more traditional process, said Donna Spicer, executive director of the Loch Raven Business Association and the Loch Raven Community Council.

By designating an area, "you're actually drawing a target for a developer to look at," said Spicer, who suggested parcels to Gardina. That interest can have a "domino effect" for the rest of the community, she said.

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