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WTP Comments for County Council on "Compromise" Bill

Updated: Mar 19

Below are the comments that We The People - Baltimore County submitted to the County Council in relation to the "compromise" bill on mixed-use overlays:

  • While we requested that the bill be revised before introduction, now that the bill has been introduced, we request that the County Council form and appoint a task force to develop consensus legislation that can meaningful address our housing crisis and glut of unused commercial land. Even with the improvements suggested below, we believe that there are real issues with the intended approach (including the fact that the compromise bill is tied to the Master Plan's "Nodes," and the Council stripped out such Notes from two councilmanic districts).

  • We strongly encourage the Council to identify now which initial areas of the County should have an overlay, rather than doing it parcel-by-parcel; otherwise this is no different than the Planned Unit Development ("PUD") process, where a Councilmember introduces a PUD only after extensive conversations with the developer and the project is already fleshed out.

  • We strongly encourage the Council to confer with its attorney and with the Office of Law on the availability of the overlay tool prior to the 2028 CZMP.

  • Specific text changes:

    • Clarify that design quality/compatibility with surrounding residential areas is critical.

    • Require a pre-submission community input meeting.  The meeting notice should be posted on the property and mailed to adjoining property owners and neighboring community associations two weeks prior to the meeting.  Right now, the community input meeting comes too late in the process. 

    • The Design Review Panel ("DRP") should review the initial design concept before County agencies perform their review (avoids wasting money and battles over redesign).

    • Establish key design criteria in the zoning regulations, which would give the DRP some leverage and set the bar for developers.  Examples:

      • Maximum height  -  4 stories on corridors; greater number of stories for redevelopment of regional malls (e.g., Security Square Mall, Owings Mills Mall, White Marsh Mall, Golden Ring Mall, etc.)

      • Require pedestrian, bike and open space connectivity to adjacent neighborhoods

      • Open space - the County’s standard 1000 square feet per unit does not work. Instead ,require a minimum 10 or 15% of the site to be public open space.  Rooftop and interior open space is permitted, but does not count toward required public open space

      • Green building design required - minimum of LEED Silver (or the equivalent)

      • Parking - County standards do not promote shared use and result in excess unused pavement. Recommend (or require) use of the Urban Land Institute’s shared parking model to minimize excessive surface and structured parking

      • Stormwater management - State/County standard focuses on small, frequent storm events. Ideally should also require or provide an incentive to handle runoff from larger storm events and/or adjacent properties

      • Adequate Public Facilities - citizens do not think the County requirements for adequate sewer, schools and traffic are meaningful, because they are not sufficient and/or not enforced by the County review process.  Council must separately undertake a review of APFO regulations (and begin collecting impact fees - County did not collect any such fees in FY 21 or 23).

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