Let me start by saying that 1st District Councilperson Tom Quirk has made some good decisions in this CZMP. Most are issues that Rebecca and I endorsed throughout the process.
I find it misleading for him, however, to be making statements that he down-zoned 43 percent of the total acreage under consideration to protect natural resources.
Planning Officer Dennis Wertz states that the approximate 114 down-zoned acres were never in danger from development and that this was done simply to clean up the zoning map, making it more uniform.
Issues 1-031 and 1-033 through 1-037 are owned by Maryland's Department of Natural Resources or Department of Forest and Parks. Issues 1-030 and 1-032 have un-located owners and are adjacent to state property. Issues 1-019 and 1-025 are owned mostly by Baltimore County.
I submitted testimony to the Planning Board referencing these issues and cautioned against using them as political rhetoric. These claims of "environmental safeguarding" are even more suspect when one realizes that Councilperson Quirk, along with all the members of County Council, went along with up-zoning nearly 1000 acres of land in the 3rd District that directly affects water quality for millions of state residents, were opposed by the Planning Board and the Smart Growth advocate, 1000 Friends of Maryland.
Speaking of "smart growth," there was one best practice up-zoning opportunity in the whole county, dealing with plans for a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) at the terminus of Interstate-70 to facilitate the future Red Line. This project was supported by 1000 Friends of Maryland and the Planning Board. The portions residing in the 4th District were up-zoned by Councilperson Ken Oliver. The portions in the 1st District weren't. I've emailed planning officials to see if they can answer this simple question: Why?
Another smart growth issue (1-008) related to a request to up-zone 40 acres, mostly zoned as rural conservation, between Jonnycake and Dogwood roads. This was done at the bequest of a $4,000 Quirk campaign donor represented by Gildea, Schmidt, and Smith who raised thousands upon thousands for this councilperson. Approximately a third of this parcel will reside in the catch zone of the proposed Red Line's terminus and needed to be up-zoned. The remainder, however, should have maintained its rural conservation zoning to keep its value low in order to facilitate an open space acquisition. The County Master Plan shows this general area as a target for high density development. The plan also states that we should acquire "parklands and recreational sites" specifically "within and/or in close proximity" to areas "where population growth will be concentrated" to "promote walkability and sustainability." Councilperson Quirk's decision to up-zone 30 acres of this parcel to Office Technology, therefore, is in direct opposition to the stated open space and smart growth goals of the Master Plan.
I apologize to our councilperson for being so critical, but I feel the development lobby that propelled him to office threatens the integrity of Smart Growth and our quality of life. In fairness to him, I believe this is a countywide problem. My concerns aren't born out of dislike for him, but rather, out of love for my community and a belief in a brighter future. I'd welcome his refusal to extend councilmatic courtesy on issues that affect water quality. I'm open to a reasonable explanation regarding the I-70 TOD. I'd encourage a course reversal on the Johnnycake Road parcel.
More than anything, I'd applaud him if he could pass legislation limiting the unilateral power of a councilperson requiring the use of metrics that conform to all aspects of the Master Plan for land use decisions.
Only by removing the corruptive influence of developers will the 1st District possibly become the model of smart growth.
Paul D. Dongarra
CatonsvilleCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun