Conversions gradually transforming Orthodox Christianity

Open-space debate continues in Baltimore County

Latest attempt to increase Balto. Co. open space fees stalls.

Attempts to increase the fees that Baltimore County developers pay for open-space projects have stalled again.

County Councilman David Marks introduced and then withdrew a resolution that would have increased some of those fees. His district includes Towson, where residents have been pushing for greater fees to help pay for parks and sports fields they say are needed.

Marks introduced the resolution this month but withdrew it before a scheduled public hearing last week.

Like most local governments, Baltimore County requires developers to include a certain amount of open or green space within their projects. If the developer can't fit the space, they can apply for a waiver and pay a fee instead. The fees are used for open-space projects.

Baltimore County's fees vary by zoning district, and there are some exceptions in place — including some in the Towson area that mean some projects in Towson's core will pay little in open-space waiver fees.

The 1 million-square-foot Towson Row mixed-use development on York Road, for example, is scheduled to pay $55,000 in open space fees. The developer, Caves Valley Partners, is making a voluntary $200,000 donation toward artificial turf fields at Towson High School and the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology.

Marks' resolution would have required that projects in town centers such as downtown Towson would pay $2,000 per residential unit for open-space fees. The resolution included provisions so that projects already in the pipeline — such as Towson Row — would have paid a portion of that new fee structure.

But Marks said last week he realized a more comprehensive approach addressing fees in all county zoning districts is a better strategy, after homebuilders and preservationists opposed his resolution.

"It is a complex issue," Marks said.

In a report this year, the county's Department of Planning called for the fees remain to as they are. The Planning Board then forwarded the report onto the County Council with a different position, suggesting that increasing fees be considered.

As Marks works with other council members on a new plan for open-space fees, he said, he's negotiating with developers in hopes of getting them to volunteer to pay for some community projects. Among his ideas is a pedestrian bridge over York Road connecting to a new hiker-biker path on the east side of Towson. He also wants to improve existing neighborhood parks.

Councilman Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat, said he also wants to revisit the open-space waiver fees and the exceptions in certain areas.

Before raising the fees, Quirk said, the county first needs a plan for what kind of open spaces are needed, not only traditional parks, but also walking paths, wooded areas and other community amenities. He's crafting a bill asking the county government to develop such a plan.

Once a plan is drawn up, the county can estimate the costs of providing additional open space and use that to determine what kind of fees developers should pay, Quirk said.

"We need an open-space vision and plan for the county," he said.

Quirk also is considering a bill that would require the county to regularly issue a report on how much money has been collected in waiver fees and how the money is being spent.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
73°