Residents Speak at Zoning Hearing
Properties in Halethorpe, Arbutus, Relay and Lansdowne are being considered for zoning changes.
Every four years, the Baltimore County Planning Board engages in a process by which each parcel of property in the county can be reviewed for rezoning.
Known as the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process, the board held public hearings for proposed changes within District 1 on Tuesday evening at Lansdowne High School.
Thirty-nine parcels of land were up for rezoning in District 1 during the 2012 cycle, ranging from slim fractions of an acre to 45-acre spreads. Applicants for rezoning seek to change the number of residences that can be built on a plot, or change the type of business that is permitted to operate at a location, or to preserve open space.
During the public comment period that began at 7 p.m., each person who registered was allowed two minutes to speak.
Stuart Merenbloom, president of Paradise Community Association, spoke against rezoning a parcel of property that could allow development to encroach the open spaces of Belle Grove Road.
"To quote Joni Mitchell, 'they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot,' " Merenbloom said. "New construction is taking over our community."
"Joni Mitchell also said, 'Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone,' " replied planning board chair Paul G. Miller, which elicited a round of applause in the high school auditorium.
A few parcels of property in the southwest corner of the county seemed to generate the most comments.
One is a 44.83-acre plot at the end of Keech Road in the Gun Road area of Relay, for which the owner has requested rezoning to build a 30-unit senior housing development.
"The development proposed as Avalon Villas would be in character for Gun Road," said real estate agent Christine Garcia. "I've looked at the property on Keech Road and I believe it to be a good site for a gated retirement community of single-storey homes."
Several members of the community spoke in favor or opposition to the Avalon Villas development, with representatives of Relay Improvement Association decidedly against the proposal.
"We want to be on record as against the rezoning," said Greg Senkus, zoning chair of Relay Improvement Association.
Another contentious application was for rezoning a 0.06-acre sliver of property on Ridge Avenue near Washington Boulevard to match the zoning of adjacent parcels. Residents contend the rezoning could invite businesses into a residential area that may pose traffic dangers at that intersection.
"This area already has a high volume of traffic and excess speeding," said Vanessa Dodson, who lives on Ridge Avenue and claimed to represent 32 other Halethorpe residents. "There will be an increase in traffic accidents and violations if another business exit or entrance is established."
"After a thorough review of the zoning change request, the association has taken an opposing position toward it for several reasons," said Halethorpe Improvement Association president Mike McAuliffe. "This intersection is already dysfunctional and dangerous without commercial vehicles trying to enter and exit the property."
Gary Koloski, president of Lansdowne Improvement Association, spoke in opposition of the rezoning of property at 3003 Hammonds Ferry Road from residential to small-scale commercial, and against the rezoning of a transportation business at 2300 Hammonds Ferry Road that would permit commercial activities likely to generate more traffic.
"The Lansdowne Improvement Association does not support rezoning," Koloski said, concluding his remarks before his two-minute limit was up.
After the board reviews proposed rezoning changes, it will issue recommendations in May that will sent to the Baltimore County Council. Another round of public hearings will be held in June before the council votes on zoning changes. The council must make final decisions by September.
Catonsville Patch editor Penny Riordan contributed to this article.