Baltimore County Council passes accessory apartment bill

After a protracted debate this summer, the Baltimore County Council on Tuesday, Sept. 6 passed a bill that formally allows accessory apartments, also known as in-law apartments, in existing homes.

The accessory apartment bill was introduced two months ago and was originally scheduled for a vote on Aug. 1, but the council tabled it after constituents raised concerns about some of the language.

"A lot of the amendments were a result of some meetings with constituents," Council Chairman John Olszewski said.

The council used input from meetings with community groups and made four main amendments to the original bill.

• Language that stipulated for separate electrical, water, and sewer service for detached accessory structures was eliminated, allowing separate service only should it be determined necessary by the county.

• Structures must now be incompliance with each aspect of section 502.1 of the county zoning regulations, whereas, in the previous version of the bill, only some aspects were mandatory.

• When the accessory apartment is no longer in use by the person who received the use permit, the permit will now terminate, with any changes in occupancy or ownership of the house resulting in a new application process.

• Lastly, all existing in law structures must obtain a use permit by Oct. 1, 2012.

Even with these amendments, representatives for county homeowners associations raised questions at the council's work session last week.

Fifth District Councilman David Marks introduced an additional amendment that he said came from further meetings with the GreaterTowson Council of Community Associations. The GTCCA had expressed concerns about the impact of the bill on the Towson area.

The amendment included a clause that reads: "The purpose of this act is not to expand the potential for student housing in areas near county colleges and universities nor to worsen the saturation of student housing in such areas."

He also changed language in another passage, clarifying that no compensation can be paid for residence in an accessory apartment.

Both amendments were designed to curb over-rental in Marks' Towson-area base, he said.

"Towson is over saturated with student housing, and I want to make sure this legislation will not lead to a proliferation of more student rentals in places like Towson Manor Village and Rodgers Forge," Marks said in an email Tuesday.

"The amendment makes it clear that no one living in an accessory unit can provide compensation to live in that structure.  It also states that the purpose of the bill is not to expand student housing, giving even clearer direction to the Director of Permits, Approvals, and Inspections," he said.

Council redistricting bill Introduced

The County Council also introduced its recommendations for the councilmanic redistricting process, though the plan introduced was the same as the one presented by the county redistricting commission.

The bill will be discussed at the Sept. 27 work session, and read for final vote at the Oct. 3 council meeting.

Two of the most disputed moves from the plan presented by the redistricting commission went unchanged. The proposed plan sent Towson's Loch Hill neighborhood from the 5th District to the 6th District, and Woodlawn from the 4th District to the 1st District

Immediately after they received the redistricting plan, council members suggested that they might not be willing to split precincts, which would have been necessary to please the Loch Hill and Woodlawn.

Both neighborhoods were well represented at a public hearing after the Aug. 1 meeting, expressing a desire to remain in their original districts.

Loch Hill residents said at the hearing they were concerned that councilmanic redistricting was just going to be the first in a long line of moves that could alienate them from the Towson area they closely identify with.

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