With a Baltimore County Council vote on two Planned Unit Developments in Catonsville and Baltimore Highlands scheduled for next week, proponents of both projects expressed support at a council work session held Tuesday, Feb. 28.
The projects — a Brightview assisted living facility on the Catonsville YMCA property and the Greens at English Consul, a senior housing development behind Baltimore Highlands Elementary School — would each bring senior housing to the area.
The vote on the PUD requests is scheduled for Monday, March 5.
Andrew Teeters, senior development director for Brightview, said the company has been operating the nearby Brightview Catonsvillle facility on South Rolling Road for past decade, and said, "It's typically full… and we continue to see significant demand for it in other areas of Baltimore county and Catonsville in particular. We think this is a perfect match."
On 5.5 acres of the Catonsville YMCA property, Shelter Properties would build Brightview's 140-unit development that consists of assisted and independent living units.
First District Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville and who is sponsoring both PUDs, said the YMCA proposal was the first to come across his desk after being inaugurated in 2010.
"This took about a year to work through with the community, the YMCA, and Shelter, but I've received a lot of positive response in the community," he said. "This is a big win for Catonsville."
Proponents said the public benefit portion of the bill provides for infrastructure improvements to Rolling Road from the YMCA to the Wilkins Avenue intersection to alleviate traffic, as well as funding for the second phase of additions and improvements to the Catonsville YMCA.
The first phase is under way, and YMCA capital fundraising will fund the third.
At Tuesday's work session, several Catonsville residents spoke in support of the project.
Tom Sullivan and David Voorhees both said their neighborhoods were excited about the development.
"Knowing both groups, they have been excellent neighbors," said Sullivan, who lives two blocks from the YMCA. "Having two good neighbors wanting to do something together should produce a great situation."
The other development, which will house 72 units on 4.53 acres, was also said to be welcome in the Baltimore Highlands neighborhood. As its "public benefit," the developer, Enterprise Homes, will help fund training at the English Consul Volunteer Fire Department.
Moses Rodriguez, president of the Baltimore Highlands Community Association, said the community is glad for development to be occurring on what he called a "dead piece of property," and will welcome the incoming senior population.
"Old people are good," he said. "They get involved in the community, they go to the churches… and plus they vote, so they'll keep an eye on our elected officials. It's all positive, and we appreciate that (Enterprise) included us in their plans."
Towson leaders support open space zoning
A pair of Towson community leaders spoke in support of a bill sponsored by 5th District Councilman David Marks and Quirk that would create an open space overlay in the county zoning codes.
"We strongly support this bill," Paul Hartman, vice president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, said.
"We feel it's a great way to give an extra measure of protection to the rare open space, particularly here in Towson where we have a lot of older established communities that were built before the open space regulations were in play," Hartman said. "As we all know, once you lose open space, you can't get it back."
Dan Ellis, past president of the Glendale-Glenmont Community Association, said his community just north of the city line is constantly pressed to sell its open space for development purposes.
"One of the concerns that we have is protecting the space that is already available, and that is really what this bill is designed to do," Ellis said.
Marks said the bill would benefit all involved going forward, calling it a "truth in zoning law."
"It's a good bill for the environments, it's a good bill for communities, but it's also, quite frankly, a good bill for the private sector," Marks said. "It allows, for example, a builder to go to neighborhood association, look at a map and say, this property…is actually open space. It can't be developed."
To qualify, land must be located within the Urban Rural Demarcation Line and be a common area owned by a homeowners association, a non-profit, or be land designated as open space by a development plan.
Like other zoning classifications, the open space overlay would be applied during the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process every four years.
Quirk said the new zoning classification would be useful to the county going forward as seeks to promote sustainable growth.
"If smart growth is truly going to work, we really do have to find the balance between density and open space, between Neighborspace and development, and I think this is a tool that gives us that," he said.