"All we can do is make people aware, and make it an issue," Fredeking said. "We participated in the referendum to shine a light."

Critics call the developer-financed referendum campaign — an unprecedented drive that could put many of the 2012 land-use decisions on the ballot — misleading and arrogant.

Almond isn't buying the notion that the referendum supporters want reform.

"What we're dealing with is people who are used to getting their way, and they didn't get their way," said Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat whose district also includes Pikesville and Owings Mills. "If I had made a decision in their favor, they wouldn't be giving [money] toward the referendum, and they wouldn't be telling me the system's flawed, because they got their way."

Others financing the effort include the owners of Garrison Forest Plaza shopping center in Owings Mills. The county election board has not determined whether the issue can appear on the ballot, but a decision is expected to be issued next month. The referendum also would affect zoning decisions in Councilwoman Cathy Bevins' district, which includes the communities of Middle River and Essex.

No one knows for sure what a referendum could mean for dozens of zoning issues in Almond's and Bevins' districts.

"There's a real chance that this could hurt Baltimore County in general," Almond said. "If you're a new business coming to Baltimore County, and you want to put a lot of money into land or a business, and you know there's a possibility it could go to referendum in two years — why would you do that?"

Peddy and Fredeking say Foxleigh joined the referendum drive because they came to believe it was the only option for bringing attention to the zoning process.

"I don't think the council people on their own will endeavor to change it," Fredeking said, "because it's the source of their power and authority."

alisonk@baltsun.com

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