Two Baltimore County councilmen plan to introduce legislation they say would help better protect undeveloped areas for recreation and green space in older urban communities.
Councilmen David Marks and Tom Quirk say the measure would add another layer of protection to areas that private organizations have set aside as open space. It could also help the county catalog scattered green spaces so residents and prospective homebuyers could look them up.
"This is another tool that a County Councilperson can use for trying to find a better balance between development and density and open space," said Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat. "And I think we have to do a better job in Baltimore County."
The legislation, which the councilmen plan to introduce Feb. 6, would create a new planning designation where development would be prohibited.
About 90 percent of the county's population lives within what's known as the Urban Rural Demarcation Line — a border designated in the 1960s. The line separates areas that have public water and sewer infrastructure from those that don't. Many of the older communities within that space lack parks and trails, Quirk said.
The proposal could only apply to land within that area that is already meant to be used as open space — either common areas owned by homeowners associations or land that is protected by NeighborSpace, a nonprofit that conserves land in urban parts of the county, Quirk said.
Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, said the plan "would give another layer of certainty that [an] area would not be developed."
"What we're saying with this bill is there should be certain areas that are off limits to development," Marks said. "It will still require action during the rezoning process."
The measure could help NeighborSpace better identify parcels of homeowner associations' common areas that could complement other green spaces, said the group's executive director, Barbara Hopkins.
"Right now, they don't really show up on the map as open space," Hopkins said. "They're sort of unknown to us … [The legislation would] allow us to see all of these parcels in a way that we can't see now, and to be more strategic in our land acquisition process."
The group now owns or has conservation easements for nine properties totaling 25 acres, Hopkins said.
Most of NeighborSpace's property is zoned as residential, said board president Jack Murphy, so people do not know that it's meant to be protected. Giving such land a special zoning designation would be helpful to potential homebuyers, he said.