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Marks: New Laws Protect Open Space, Reform Development

Over the past 18 months, the County Council has enacted reforms that broaden public input and protect open space in Baltimore County.

The current Baltimore County Council is now 18 months into its term.  With five freshmen, this Council has brought new ideas and energy to the table, particularly in the area of planning, zoning, and development. 

Bill 2-11 created the Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee.  Already, we are seeing a renewed interest in new trails and sidewalk projects.  Our office is working to extend the Indian Rock Park trail in Perry Hall and create bike lanes in the Towson area.

Bill 3-11 requires a Community Input Meeting for a new development to be closer to an affected neighborhood.  I introduced this bill because I remember when Perry Hall residents had to travel to the Rosedale library to learn about a project in their own backyard.  The same thing happened in Carney, where residents were required to go to the Perry Hall library even when there were closer places to meet.

Resolution 29-11 directs the Planning Board to review whether zoning regulations can better stimulate Transit-Oriented Development.

Many of our bills have reformed the Planned Unit Development process.  A PUD is a special project that is not contingent on traditional zoning. Planned Unit Developments can play an important role, particularly by encouraging mixed-use development, but they must be done selectively.  Bill 36-11 requires a Community Input Meeting and agency reviews before the County Council even considers a PUD resolution.  

Bill 64-11 qualifies NeighborSpace of Baltimore County as a community benefit under a Planned Unit Development.  Bill 4-12 puts the PUD documents on-line.

I am most proud of Bill 7-12, which creates the first-ever open space zoning designation in Baltimore County, "Neighborhood Commons."  We should have areas that are specifically preserved from development.  Bill 7-12 gives a County Councilmember this important tool during the rezoning process.

Bill 15-12 gives the public additional notice for a proposed variance or special exception, and it requires these changes to be posted on-line.

Bill 21-12 bans panhandle building lots in Carney, Cub Hill, and Parkville, blocking this type of infill development in a hilly and densely-populated part of Baltimore County. 

Bill 23-12 expands the type of projects that can qualify for a property tax credit if the homes meet certain environmental standards.  This legislation is good for taxpayers, as well as for the environment.

I worked on many of these bills with Councilman Tom Quirk, who also has a strong interest in planning and development issues.  But here's what is extraordinary:  not only did the legislation secure support from both Democrats and Republicans, but not a single vote was cast against any of the bills I just mentioned.  We will continue looking for ways to advance public participation in the development process.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

t. Fortt May 15, 2012 at 09:59 AM
I am concerned about the end of my street that I thought was considered an open space area. I live on Ramblebrook Road and since the county has removed the power lines at the end of the street, I'm wondering if that open space will remain or does that mean that someone can build houses there now? I would hate to see that happen.
David Marks May 15, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Thanks for the inquiry. That property is owned by Baltimore County. Any sale of county property must be approved by the County Council, and I know of no plan to sell this land; however, this is exactly why I am looking at all of these slivers of undeveloped property scattered throughout Perry Hall.
Bart May 15, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Mr. Marks, you noticed a small sliver of property behind our house, that I never would have thought had "building" potential, and said you would move to downzone it. Now that I look at that little patch of woods, I realize that something COULD be put there. Thank you for your foresight!
Lily August 13, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Thank you Councilman. The more I read about your activities the more pleased I am that someone is concerned about actual governance and not just elections.

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