The Baltimore County Council revoked plans for a Catonsville townhouse development in May, but the project could be in the works again after the council chairman introduced a bill to invalidate that decision.
A bill introduced June 6 by Councilman John Olszewski, who represents the 7th District that includes Dundalk, would reinstate approval for a planned unit development (PUD) for a project that would include 10 townhouses near the intersection of Frederick and Thistle roads.
The bill would also establish time limits on when a PUD could be revoked in the future.
"To me, it's not about the PUD, it's about the process," Olszewski said June 10. "I'm just trying to restore the integrity of the process."
When the council unanimously decided to revoke its prior approval of the PUD on May 2, it was the first time in council history that council members had terminated a project after voting to allow it to go through the development process.
In October, 2010, the council approved a plan that would allow property owner James Dimitri Coroneos to build Thistle Landing, five duplexes on 1.45 acres of a 2.5-acre plot adjacent to Patapsco Valley State Park and Dimitri's International Grill at 2205 Frederick Road.
Following a review process by county agencies, the PUD was slated to go before a hearing officer for final approval.
Residents opposed to that project would have had 30 days to appeal that decision if the townhouses were approved.
When he introduced legislation to repeal the PUD, Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the 1st District that includes Catonsville and Arbutus, said he "saw a lot of serious concerns" in reports from the county planning office and the county's Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management.
The PUD was originally introduced by former 1st District Councilman Sam Moxley, who served on the council for 16 years prior to his December 2010 retirement and is now assistant county attorney.
County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said June 13 that Moxley declined to comment out of respect for Quirk and because of his new role with the county.
Quirk said last week that a "trade-off" of the PUD process is that in allowing development to be built in an area not zoned for it, the proposal must include a superior-quality project with a clear public benefit.
"Neither of which Thistle Landing did," Quirk said.
Quirk said allowing a project such as Thistle Landing to go forward would hurt high-quality projects that are beneficial to the community.
"The best way to protect the integrity of the process is not to introduce PUD resolutions that demonstrate no public benefit and inferior development," Quirk said. "My opinion was that this was a mistake."
Olszewski said his goal is to clarify the revocation process and establish when a council member can take back a PUD.
When the PUD process was developed in 2005, the option for revocation was included, then later taken out, he said.
Under Olszewski's legislation, if a project was introduced within a 60-day period before a new council member is sworn in, then the incoming councilman would have 60 days after the swearing-in ceremony to revoke the PUD.
Olszewski said that when Quirk introduced legislation revoking the PUD in May and asked his fellow members to vote on it that night, he "caught us all off guard."
When a PUD is revoked, a council member should first introduce it, then allow the other members of the council to consider it and hold a public meeting before making a decision, he said.