Digest

August 24, 2007

Requests for changes in yearlong rezoning to be accepted online

As Baltimore County planners prepare to take on one of the biggest tasks in local government -- the wholesale rezoning of land -- they are turning to the Internet to make the process a little less cumbersome this time.

The county's once-every-four-years comprehensive zoning map process is scheduled to begin next month. And for the first time, those seeking changes to the rules covering what can be built on their property will be able to submit applications online.

"We hope it will be a good time saver," Jeff Mayhew, the county's community planning chief, said yesterday during a workshop in Towson.

The county will accept rezoning applications between Sept. 4 and Oct. 15. The county has scheduled a series of public hearings on the requests throughout the next year, and the County Council plans to hold a final vote in September 2008.

Anyone can request rezoning for any parcel, including land owned by others. The changes could potentially have major effects, determining, for example, whether a parcel will be preserved as open space or become the site of an office building.

This year, applicants will be able to fill out a form on-line, after registering at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/go/CZMP.

They will need to know a parcel's council district, size and tax number, which can be found by looking up an address' assessment record on the state's online database of property records. Applicants will also have to fill out a "justification" for the change.

One of eight county planners then meet with the applicant to go over the rezoning request and ensure that the information is correct.

After months of public hearings and review, the planners ultimately recommend to the council a zoning designation for the property.

Planners say putting the applications online is designed to streamline the review process and make it easier for residents to track decisions affecting their neighborhood.

In 2003, the county received more than 540 rezoning requests, Mayhew said. While the task of reviewing the applications largely falls to eight planners, nearly everyone in the 40-employee planning office takes part in the process, Mayhew said.

"You can imagine with 500-some issues, it really envelops the whole office," Mayhew said.

Ruth Baisden, a Parkville community organizer who attended yesterday's workshop, said that taking the rezoning process online allows residents to follow major land-use decisions.

"Anything that takes public information and makes it more public is positive for the community," she said.

Josh Mitchell

Recycling

Million mark reached in electronics

Baltimore County's recycling collection site in Cockeysville has collected more than one million pounds in electronics since it began accepting such items last year, county officials said yesterday.

The milestone was reached in July, officials said. The permanent recycling collections center, off Warren Road on Drop-Off Drive, opened in September.

The site accepts televisions, videocassette recorders, digital video disc players, cell phones and stereo and computer equipment. A New Jersey-based company ensures that the items are reused or recycled, officials said. Recycling electronics keeps such potentially hazardous materials as mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic out of landfills and waste-to-energy facilities, officials said.

From 2001 through last year, the county held nine electronics recycling drop-off events, collecting 839,000 pounds of electronics.

Information: www.baltimorecountymd.gov/recycling or 410-887-2000.

Owings Mills

State OKs funds to expand park

The state Board of Public Works has approved $675,000 in Program Open Space funding to buy land that will be annexed into the Soldier's Delight Natural Environment Area in Owings Mills, the state Department of Natural Resources said.

The purchase of the 7.75-acre parcel will also fill a gap in the Wildland Urban Interface Firebreak Network, permitting access to the entire area by firefighting equipment as needed, officials said.

The Soldier's Delight Natural Environment Area is one of four major remnants of the globally rare serpentine grasslands still existing in Maryland. The annexation of the land will provide contiguous parcels in an area under restoration for rare and endangered species by the Department of Natural Resources. The money is part of more than $5.2 million provided to local governments for shoreline erosion control and park expansion and improvements.

Dundalk

K-9 skills demonstration is tomorrow

A K-9 skills demonstration is scheduled for tomorrow in Dundalk as part of a ceremony marking the graduation of new dogs for the Baltimore County Police Department.

Diplomas are to be presented to: Baltimore County Cpl. Joe Putnam and K-9 Carbo; Officer John Bondura and K-9 Castro; Officer Eric Brennan and K-9 Gunney; Officer Chris Strevig and K-9 Jet; Amtrak Officer Kim Jarret and K-9 Dan; and Baltimore sheriff's Deputy Justin Mueller and K-9 Pike.

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