Balto. Co. OKs scores of zoning changes

Packed house quietly witnesses council redrawing land-use map

August 27, 2008|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,

The constituents who packed a Baltimore County Council meeting last night for its quadrennial redrawing of the county's zoning map were silent as mice for almost the entire 90-minute gathering, during which officials gave rapid-fire assent to hundreds of proposed zoning changes.

The only exception was a happy ripple of applause when council members rejected a controversial request from Theodore W. Bauer, owner of the Oregon Grille restaurant on Shawan Road, who has faced a barrage of flak - not to mention a lawsuit - from neighbors because of his desire to expand the property.

But Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz wasn't having any unruliness. "I'd ask everyone to please be quiet," he admonished, and silence was restored.

Every four years, with the regularity of the Olympics or a presidential election, county officials take on a mammoth process that considers rezoning applications from hundreds of property owners. Not all of them get what they want.

Last night, the seven-member council rendered final votes on more than 600 properties in a 104-page rezoning package, a bonanza of applications that in many cases will enable developers to expand their horizons and in other instances will restrict plans for construction or prohibit it altogether.

There was little discussion of individual applications, since the nuts and bolts of each were worked out beforehand by staff and planners.

"Traditionally, the council respects the decision of the member in whose district the issue lies, on the premise that he knows his district best," Kamenetz said before yesterday's meeting.

In the Bauer case, neighbors, represented by the Falls Road Community Association, accused him of violating a restrictive covenant on the Hunt Valley property - which he leases from the county - by hosting outdoor events at his restaurant and by paving the parking lot with nonporous stone. The association has filed a lawsuit claiming that the county has failed to enforce its own laws, and neighbors sought - with success - to dissuade the council from honoring Bauer's request to change the Oregon Grille's zoning from "resource conservation" to "business local."

The Oregon Grille's application was one of 234 in the county's 3rd District, which encompasses a wide swath of northern Baltimore County. Other requests in that area included one from the Greater Jacksonville Association, which was unsuccessful in its effort to seek a more restrictive designation for a 149-acre parcel - already listed as "resource conservation" - in a watershed area along Blenheim Road.

In Kamenetz's 2nd District, which includes Ruxton and Pikesville, Associated Jewish Charities failed in its attempt to change the residential zoning on a 55.8-acre parcel it owns north of St. Thomas Lane near Garrison Forest Road to allow for office and residential uses. The request had met considerable opposition.

Some council rezoning decisions

* The Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council got most of what it asked for in its bid to place more restrictive zoning on a 376-acre area between Interstate 83 and Big Falls Road north of Monkton Road.

* Following the Planning Board's recommendation, the council left alone the "manufacturing" zoning on a 16-acre parcel on the north side of Eastern Boulevard across from Lynbrook Road, rejecting Vanguard Equities' request for a "business major" designation.

* A similar request by Thompson 124 Northpoint Ltd. to change a 9.4-acre parcel at North Point Boulevard and Baltimore Street from "manufacturing" to "business" was approved.

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