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News Maryland Baltimore County

Kamenetz: Council sent 'wrong message' by blocking housing project

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said Wednesday that the County Council sent "the wrong message" this week by rejecting state funding for a planned affordable housing project in Rosedale.

Kamenetz's administration supported the proposed development by the nonprofit Homes for America, which would have included 50 homes on McCormick Avenue. In a 6-0 vote, with one abstention, the council approved a resolution that turned down more than $1 million in state financing, effectively blocking the project.

"I certainly regret the tenor that came out with that resolution," Kamenetz said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun's editorial board

In development matters, council members in Baltimore County typically follow a tradition called "councilmanic courtesy," in which they defer to whichever council member's district is involved.

Kamenetz pointed out that most of the council members are in their first term.

"I think it takes a little while to understand how to think beyond just your district and look at the county as a whole," he said. "And that's a learning curve associated with that."

Councilwoman Cathy Bevins sponsored the resolution, siding with community groups who opposed the housing development. She says the county has concentrated too much low-income housing in the eastern part of the county, which includes her district.

"I stand by my decision," Bevins said. "If there's a learning curve, it's for the administration to figure out how to spread affordable housing out throughout the county."

The Middle River Democrat said the proposed location would not offer easy access to bus lines or a grocery store, and that many people in that area already are struggling.

"I have a lot of working poor in this area. And I was one of them at one time," she said. "I've been a single mother twice, and I certainly know what it's like to struggle."

Kamenetz said affordable housing needs to be accessible throughout the county, but much of the county is off limits to dense building because of decades-old zoning restrictions meant to protect the environment. The county is split into two parts by the Urban-Rural Demarcation line, which separates areas that have public water and sewer service from those that don't.

"We're never going to put multifamily housing in Parkton," he said.

He said his administration is exploring a variety of strategies to provide more affordable housing, including putting aside money for such projects. He also said that if the General Assembly does not pass legislation next year to prevent housing discrimination against people using Section 8 vouchers, he might consider a similar measure at the local level.

alisonk@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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