- Nick Stewart
Takeaways from March 23, 2022 Public Meeting
Updated: Apr 16, 2022
Regarding the Zoning and Development Process Generally - What Is the Process, and What Is the Problem
It was shared that Baltimore County’s zoning and development process is very complicated, and that one is at a loss in trying to discern the way it works and its nuances; it feels as though you need a land use attorney in order to participate meaningfully in the process, and this is wrong; it would be helpful if someone could prepare an easy-to-use primer or summary, to provide residents with a basic understanding of the process.
There is a sense that there is a problem, but it is difficult to understand what the problem is, because the process is so convoluted.
The county should look at jurisdictions that have established a better zoning and development process (e.g., Howard County), identify best practices and incorporate changes in the county’s process. It was acknowledged that such best practices need to be specific and discrete; otherwise, it will be harder to effect change because the response will be that Baltimore County is just different and has its own way of doing things
Master Plan – Recommendations on the Process of Planning
The master-planning process still leaves things to be desired; at bottom, residents should not have to come to and approach the county to provide commentary on the master plan; instead the county should be coming to and seeking out residents. In this way, the county can better ensure it is receiving feedback from the privileged and not-so-privileged. The county can look at other jurisdictions as exemplars on this front, e.g., Charlotte, North Carolina, which even created a board game for children to provide input on the master plan there.
There is a perception that the master plan meetings and town halls do not amount to much. That is to say, the meetings themselves are high level, the discussions and ideas are all over the place, and it does not seem that much comes out of the meeting. People are confused by the process, and are not sure how to best participate.
More than just sharing concerns with the county and being heard, people want to know the county’s (and county council’s) response is to these concerns, including the concerns raised by We The People. The response should be in writing.
Master Plan – Recommendations on the Substance of the Plan
The Master Plan must govern the CZMP, and community plans should be updated so that they can contribute meaningfully to the Master Plan and CZMP.
Reforming the PUD process is an important, if not the most important, priority. Please establish a PUD task force to recommend improvements.
The county should review the use of special exceptions, which, by their nature, limit the extent to which people can provide input.
The county has missed certain opportunities, regarding areas ripe for transit-oriented, mixed-use development, where it acquiesced to short-term, corporate interests (e.g., a new Royal Farms near Route 40); this should be avoided going forward. While the county wants and need redevelopment, as opposed to greenfield development, it does not need more low-value redevelopment.
The county should not permit low-income families to be concentrated in just certain communities, e.g., Randallstown.
County leaders tend to prioritize big, transformational projects, which are important, but so too is incremental development; this includes incremental development, by right, which may help address missing middle housing; smaller changes can increase confidence in the process while bolstering the tax base.
The reality is that the county’s infrastructure is already old, and the aging process is accelerating, e.g., sidewalks from 1910 that have not been maintained well; 80-year-old homes, etc. The county must focus at least some of its energies and resources on bringing current what infrastructure presently exists.
The county should follow the lead of neighbor jurisdictions and review and revise its laws on accessary dwelling units (ADUs); provided that such ADUs need to have some tie-in to transit and other community resources.
A major issue with the county is stormwater management for large abandoned properties; this used to be an area of focus of the county, and it should be one again.
Please feel free to share any additional comments or questions, using the comment box on the main page, and we can add them here.
If you did not have the chance to attend the 3/23 meeting, you can watch a video of the meeting on the main page as well.
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