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Planning board moves 190 acres from urban to rural

State ParksTom QuirkInner Harbor

While the calendar may indicate that winter officially arrives in a month, the Baltimore County Planning Board performed some spring cleaning last week much to the delight of residents of one area community.

By a unanimous vote of all 10 members present Nov. 15, the board shifted more than 195 acres off Gun Road near Patapsco Valley State park from one side of the Urban Rural Demarcation Line (URDL) to the other.

"Our community has been on the urban side of the line. With the line moved, we are now on the rural side of the line, " said Willie Moore, a Gun Road resident. "It's a wonderful thing."

First District Councilman Tom Quirk said the move came after months of residents working with the county.

"This creates a certainty long desired by the community," Quirk said of the feedback he has received from nearly all of the 42 Gun Road residents.

The move is appropriate for land zoned for rural residential (RC) use, as is the acreage in question, Moore said, praising Quirk for his determined efforts working with county agencies to recommend the shift to the Planning Board.

The URDL was established by Baltimore County in 1967. Areas on the urban side have, or could have, public water and sewer infrastructure to accommodate development. Areas on the rural side usually have well and septic systems, a reliance that usually limits the amount of development.

Usually, the Planning Board is asked to move property to the urban side, said Catonsville resident Eric Lamb, in his first year on the 15-member board after being appointed by 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk.

"I think it was the right move for Catonsville," Lamb said. "It made the URDL consistent with the underlying zoning.

"The community was strongly in support of it," he said. "I don't think anybody spoke in opposition to it.

"Gun Road is rural in nature. There's only one way in and one way out," he said the area west of South Rolling Road in which there are only two roads, Gun Road and Keech Road.

Lamb said the shift will not take away any property rights because the underlying zoning on the land remains the same and the property affected by shifting the line is already served by public water.

"We have been inappropriately labeled as a community that wants to stop development at all costs and that's not true," Moore said. "We support any development that is done within the guidelines."

With last week's vote, whatever development suggested for the land would be dependent upon passing the county's test for septic systems.

"Being on the rural side of the URDL is more consistent with the RC (Rural Conservation) zoning which occurred during the 2008 CZMP (Comprehensive Zoning Map Process)," said Paul Donaghue, president of the Gun Road Historical and Protective Association.

Donaghue said the zoning change four years ago from medium residential density to rural residential came at the recommendation by then First District Councilman Sam Moxley.

"We thought, mistakenly, that when the County Council rezoned the property in 2008, the URDL automatically followed. We were mistaken," he said.

"This makes it more consistent with the current zoning. We think that's generally a good thing, for those two to be aligned," Donaghue said.

"We're glad that it happened and we appreciate the work of Councilman Quirk, the Baltimore County Planning Department, the Planning Office and Planning Board, and Eric Lamb and the 1st District representative on the Planning Board," he said.

Donaghue stressed that shifting the line will not prevent development.

"We're not opposed to development at all," said the 15-year resident of a community in which several of his neighbors live on property that has been in their families for generations. "We're advocates of development that's consistent with the zoning that's permitted.

"Gun Road is extremely unique, geographically," he said of the community that is flanked on three sides by Patapsco Valley State Park. "It's definitely a piece of country in the Catonsville-Arbutus area that's only 10 minutes from the Inner Harbor."

"We wanted to preserve the character of the neighborhood," said Moore, a 17-year resident of a community in which he is still considered a newcomer. "We feel very passionate about that."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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