Baltimore County Council again considers open-space fee changes for Towson

Balto. Co. Council tries again on open space fees for developers

A Baltimore County councilman has proposed raising a fee on building projects in downtown Towson that don't provide sufficient open space.

Developers are objecting.

Councilman David Marks a has proposed raising fees that had previously been lowered or eliminated.

"I think the developers can afford this and, at the end of the day, we'll have a better Towson," the Republican said Tuesday during a council work session. The measure is scheduled for a vote next week.

Josh Greenfeld, vice president of the Maryland Building Industry Association, said developers would more likely support a comprehensive revision of open-space requirements and fees. He said his group has been working with Marks and neighbors, but "this resolution doesn't embody most of the agreements we had come to."

Towson residents have complained that the growing community lacks parks and sports fields. Some have called for raising open-space fees to help pay for parks.

Marks' bill would capitalize on a redevelopment boom in Towson, collecting more than $2.1 million in fees from about a half-dozen projects. Under the current fee structure, those same projects would yield $147,000.

Projects that would be subject to higher fees include the mixed-use Towson Row development, a student housing project called 101 York, the redevelopment of the Towson Circle building, a Washington Avenue apartment project and a mixed-use project on the former Raytheon site on Joppa Road.

Developers whose projects are partway through the county's approval process would pay a partial increase.

Greenfeld said developers with projects already in the pipeline should be exempt from the increase.

Marks said revenue from the fees would help fund projects including turf sports fields at Towson High School and Carver Center for Arts and Technology, the development of a park on a property currently owned by a local business, and upgrades on the West Towson Trail and a mini-park in Southland Hills and Towson Manor Village Park.

Beth Miller, an Anneslie resident and member of the newly formed Green Towson Alliance, called Marks' plan "a meaningful start" to addressing open-space needs.

A representative from Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's administration was skeptical. Chief Administrative Officer Fred Homan said the increased fees would generate "only a scintilla" of funding needed for the Towson park projects Marks identified.

At Monday's council session, 6 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Towson, the council also will consider a companion bill from Councilman Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat, that would require the county Planning Board to develop a priority list of open-space projects.

pwood@baltsun.com

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