By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun
3:26 AM EST, February 15, 2013
Developers and shopping center owners contributed nearly $600,000 in the rejected bid to overturn Baltimore County Council votes on zoning issues, according to financial reports.
If successful, the referendum drive would have allowed county voters to decide the fate of dozens of properties, including the former Solo Cup site in Owings Mills, the Middle River Depot and Green Spring Station in Lutherville.
County elections officials ruled last week that petitions used in the drive didn't meet legal standards because they did not provide enough information to voters who were asked to sign. Stuart Kaplow, an attorney for the petition supporters, has rejected that claim and said his clients will appeal the ruling to the county's Circuit Court.
Records show the sponsors of the petitions donated about $578,000 to the campaign.
Contributors to the campaign were: Carroll Island Associates, a firm with a connection to the Cordish Cos.; Foxleigh Management, the owner of Green Spring Station; Owings Mills Transit LLC, which is tied to David S. Brown Enterprises; and the owners of the Garrison Forest Plaza Shopping Center.
The donors' expenditures included payments to National Ballot Access, a Georgia-based petition management company, and to lawyers and political consultants.
Developers of the Foundry Row project at the old Solo Cup site and of the Middle River Depot opposed the referendum and spent money to defeat it. But the amount they spent is not public because, as opponents of the petitions, they were not required to file financial reports.
Last week, the attorney for the county elections board wrote in an opinion that petition circulators should have included zoning maps when they approached voters to gather signatures. Kaplow contends the maps were not legally required.
Meanwhile, Carroll Island Associates has contributed $100,000 in another petition drive — this one challenging a council bill that would protect the Middle River Depot redevelopment zoning.
Nearly all of that money — more than $98,600, according to a petition fund report — went to National Ballot Access. In recent weeks, a committee funded by Carroll Island Associates turned in more than 30,000 signatures for that drive. It will take at least a month for elections staff to verify the signatures, elections Director Katie Brown said. About 28,000 certified signatures are needed to put the issue on the ballot.
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