Putting brakes on development

Baltimore County groups try to preserve land through rezoning

October 20, 2007|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,sun reporter

A group of northern Baltimore County preservationists employed satellite mapping software to target areas for more restrictive zoning. Another organization used a decades-old blueprint to craft proposals to reduce the number of houses that can be built in a large part of the Greenspring Valley.

Community association leader Alan Zuckerberg used a broom-like approach, asking for sweeping changes to curtail development in most of Pikesville.

In all, community and preservation groups have asked for new zoning designations for more than 2,000 acres of land to restrict development and preserve wooded areas as part of the county's comprehensive zoning map process, conducted every four years.

"It's nice to go down the street and see trees," said Zuckerberg, president of the Pikesville Communities Corporation, explaining the idea behind the group's extensive requests. "This area is already built out."

More than 260 rezoning requests were submitted by this week's deadline for property owners, county agencies, developers and community groups, said Jeff Mayhew, the county's community planning chief.

Among them are conflicting requests, as neighborhood groups seek to restrict development and companies plan to build new houses and commercial areas.

For example, Zuckerberg's group has requested that zoning be changed on a 378-acre area west of Park Heights Avenue between Slade Avenue and the Beltway to restrict the density of residential development. But within that area, the Druid Ridge Cemetery Company is asking for more houses be permitted on a 39.4 acre parcel than current zoning allows.

And in northern Baltimore County, the Freeland Legacy Alliance seeks to change agricultural and rural residential zoning on 153 acres along Cotter Road near Beckleysville Road to an "Environmental Enhancement" designation, which would restrict development further. A developer has already submitted plans and received approval from the zoning commissioner to build Shelley's Fields, a new housing development and recreational complex planned in that area.

"The hope is to get the zoning reverted back to what it was," said Reb Scavone, president of Freeland Legacy Alliance, whose members are opposed to the project.

Teresa Moore, executive director of the Valleys Planning Council, said the preservation group looked at the original 1962 plan created to protect the scenery and natural resources in the 75-square-mile "valleys" area of northwestern Baltimore County area.

"The original study called for the preservation of the steep slopes of the valleys," she said, explaining why the organization is seeking a "rural conservation" designation in three areas, including a 356-acre area south of Hillside Road between Park Heights Avenue and Falls Road.

The zoning change would mean that property owners would have to subtract environmentally sensitive areas - such as forested areas and valley slopes - from the total acreage when calculating how many houses can be built, she said.

The Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council, which used Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping software to develop its zoning requests, is also seeking to reduce the number of houses that can be built in a large area - 376 acres between Interstate 83 and Big Falls Road north of Monkton Road.

"We knew that the Gunpowder [Falls] was a precious resource we wanted to preserve," said Kirsten Burger, president of the group. "The GIS was very helpful - in identifying other environmentally and agriculturally important features in the area and in identifying the proximity of land already preserved.

The planning board has until Oct. 31 and County Council members have until Nov. 30 to submit requests.

In January, affected property owners and those adjacent to the properties will receive notices from the county of the zoning change requests.

The planning board holds its public hearings in March and then issues its recommendations. The county council, which will also have public hearings, must vote on the requests by September.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

More information about the zoning requests is available online: www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/planning/zoning/2008czmp/2008czmpissue logs.html and www.baltimore countymd.gov/Agencies/my neighborhood/zoning.html Zoning-change request highlights

In the Arbutus and Catonsville areas:

25 requests

St. John Properties seeks to change zoning on a 5.5-acre parcel on Lansdowne Road near Washington Boulevard that permits assembly plants to allow large-scale commercial uses.

In the Ruxton and Pikesville areas:

36 requests

Associated Jewish Charities seeks to change residential zoning on a 55.8-acre parcel north of St. Thomas Lane near Garrison Forest Road to allow for office and residential uses.

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