Community leaders from the Loch Raven area spoke before the County Council on Tuesday to express support for a bill that would place development guidelines on some Loch Raven businesses.
"We feel this is a step in the right direction to encourage compatible redevelopment in our area," Nick Linehan, a member of the Loch Raven Village board, told the council at its work session on March 12.
The bill, introduced by Councilman David Marks, designates the Baynesville and Hillendale sections of the Loch Raven Revitalization Area as subject to the review of the county's Design Review Panel.
Marks said Baynesville comprises the area near Joppa Road and Loch Raven Boulevard, while Hillendale comprises a section near Loch Raven Boulevard and Taylor Avenue.
The bill would reduce the current size of the Loch Raven Revitalization District, leaving just one subsection in the Loch Raven area — Satyr Hill near Joppa Road and Perring Parkway — that would not be subject to the Design Review Panel's scrutiny.
The Design Review Panel, made up of community members and architects, will look at landscaping, lighting, signage and building design to give advice on how to improve construction in designated communities throughout the county.
"We're not looking at minor changes," Marks, who represents the 5th District including Towson, said. "New construction along that corridor should have better standards. It's a corridor that really needs it."
Marks said a plan to put the area under the jurisdiction of the Design Review Panel has been around for about a decade, but was never completed.
Linehan, who spoke on behalf of his community association, said the commercial look of the area's major traffic corridors hide and distort what are well-designed, close-knit communities.
"Loch Raven Village, and our neighboring communities, Knettishall and Hillendale, are unique in that they are walkable neighborhoods with interconnecting streets and sidewalks that connect us to our schools, our open spaces, and to our commercial areas," Linehan said.
"These commercial areas make up our gateways to our communities, so the … character and impression people have of our neighborhoods is what they see initially coming in," he said. "Because of that, they affect our home values, and also the quality of life that we enjoy in our neighborhoods."
Bob Kemp, president of the Hillendale Park Community Association, likewise supported the bill, saying the area is important to the county and has been neglected over some time.
Karen Fitze, vice president of the Ridgeleigh Community Association, said she was a lifelong resident of the area who fully supported any legislation that could help improve the area.
Fitze asked for "something that has some sort of design quality to it, a landscaping quality to it, something that would boost the whole area and help us keep our property values up."
The County Council will vote on the bill on Monday, March 18 at 6 p.m. in the County Courthouse.