Council creates bird sanctuary

County officials also vote to require developers start building within 4 years of approval


The Baltimore County Council agreed last night to designate as a bird sanctuary an area in Cub Hill that includes a neighborhood of condominiums.

The bill imposes fines for killing or injuring wild birds in a 24-acre area that includes the Doncaster Village condominiums, near Bellbeck Road. County officials said the legislation restates a federal law against bird killings and will have no effect on county land-use policy, as some of the bill's supporters had hoped.

Also last night, the council agreed on a development package requiring property owners to start building houses within four years of the approval of their development plans. It approved legislation requiring surveillance cameras in the parking lots of big-box stores. And it confirmed the county executive's nomination of Deputy County Attorney John Beverungen as county attorney.

The bird-sanctuary bill sets a fine of $100 to $500 for killing wild birds or fowl in Doncaster Village. The area was designated a sanctuary in 1985, but the law was apparently repealed several years ago after it was determined that federal and state agencies were the appropriate regulators of conduct harmful to birds, county officials said.

Charles Rehm, who led the effort for sanctuary status for the Doncaster Village area, said he had no idea the law had been removed.

"It is a matter of civil right that the property owners have a return of a law that was vetted years ago," Rehm said after the 5-2 council vote.

The council agreed to amend the bill so that an area surrounding Robert E. Lee Park, just north of the city line, was not re-designated a sanctuary. Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, whose district includes the park, had raised questions about the bill, including whether inspectors would be required to monitor sanctuaries for bird casualties.

Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat, and council Chairman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, voted against the sanctuary bill, which was sponsored by north county Republican T. Bryan McIntire and Randallstown Democrat Kenneth N. Oliver.

The development bill is designed in part to require property owners who seek to build housing under old development plans to comply with current regulations. It gives property owners four years to begin construction after the approval of their residential plans, and forces those who haven't to re-start the approval process.

The bill also redefines when a development plan becomes "vested" and thus not subject to subsequent county laws and zoning changes. Currently a property becomes vested after the issuance of a building permit. Now a property will become vested after substantial construction begins.

The bill will not be retroactive, meaning that any current development plans will have four years to become vested.

The surveillance-camera bill amends a law passed last year requiring shopping centers to install cameras in their parking lots. Now the owners of big box stores, those bigger than 75,000 square feet, will be required to do the same. The legislation also requires shopping center owners to certify in writing that they have installed the cameras.

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