As the first speaker during a four-hour public hearing Tuesday, March 13 on rezoning issues in Baltimore County's 3rd District, the principal of Sparks Elementary School set the tone for most of the 115 speakers who followed.
Sharon Kearney simply asked members of the 15-member Planning Board to leave zoning designations in the 3rd District just as they are and not to make any changes.
Kearney was specifically interested in seven proposed zoning changes that would increase the number of houses within her school's boundaries. She told Board members that Sparks Elementary is already 160 students over capacity during the hearing held at Loch Raven High School.
The County Council will vote on all Comprehensive Zoning Map Process, or CZMP, changes in September. However the Planning Board makes its own recommendations on each issue.
Quaker Bottom Road resident Susan Parish was one of more than a dozen speakers who opposed upzoning 200 acres in Sparks and said she already had 502 signatures on a petition opposing upzoning on Belfast Road and Quaker Bottom Road.
An upzoning request for Mt. Carmel Tree Farm's 66 acres on Mt. Carmel Road in Parkton drew a half-dozen speakers opposing what could be as many as 33 houses on that land.
A request to change 175 acres on Stockton Road in Phoenix from agricultural to residential zoning prompted Amy Lime, of Phoenix, among others to speak against the request.
"What ever happened to Smart Growth?" Lime said.
Members of the proactive rural conservation group, the Greater Sparks-Glencoe Planning Council, want to see 1,000 acres in Monkton, Parkton and White Hall downzoned. They said limiting growth would protect the Prettyboy and Loch Raven watersheds, agriculture, wildlife habitat and trout streams.
Speakers also addressed proposed zoning changes in the southern portion of the 3rd District.
College Manor, an assisted-living facility on Seminary Avenue in Lutherville, seeks an increase in zoning so it can expand the facility. This same request was turned down in the 2008 CZMP.
Allowing this zoning change "would ruin the feel of historic Lutherville and open up a can of worms," said Eric Rockel, president of the Greater Timonium Community Council.
Lawrence Hooper, president of the Lutherville Community Association, said his group "strongly opposes the high-density request." He has a petition opposing the project with 285 signatures.
A request by the Hunt Valley Church on Beaver Dam Road in Cockeysville to upzone its property in order to enlarge its facility brought out people both for and against the proposal.
Rev. Frank Boswell, pastor of Hunt Valley Church, told the Board that the church's property straddles Interstate 83. The church is on one side and its community center on the other. Allowing the rezoning would help consolidate the facilities. Boswell had a petition signed by 239 people.
Beaver Dam Community Association representative Wanda Smith and Harold Burns, of the Falls Road Community Association, both spoke against the project.
'This isn't Montana with wide open spaces'
During the hearing, many speakers had other people with them to bolster their pleas to the Planning Board. As they spoke to the Board, supporters stood and applauded the speaker.
Many brought signed petitions to back up their positions. Sparks Elementary PTA president Stacey Krotee has 178 signatures to limit upzoning within the school's boundaries.
Sparks resident Karen Goshaney helped gathered 1,000 signatures on a petition against a plan by Obrecht Properties to rezone 18 acres from commercial to residential. The change would allow construction of 80 townhouses on York Road, just south of Fila Way.
"This isn't Montana with wide open spaces," she told the Board. "The Master Plan does not call for high-density residential development where this is planned."
The Board will now consider all 71 requests in the Third District and will give its recommendations to the County Council before May 4.
The day after the hearing, Wayne McGinnis, who represents the 3rd District on the Planning Board, said, "I think 90 percent of the people there were opposed to any changes, which isn't unusual. People had done their homework, and that's good. But I wish the meeting was split into two nights. It's hard anytime a meeting goes on for four hours."