Proposed White Marsh outlet mall goes to the ballot

On the ballot in Baltimore County next year: Outlet mall in White Marsh

Baltimore County voters will have a chance next year to approve or reject a zoning law that would allow an outlet mall to be built in White Marsh.

Opponents of the proposed 100-store Paragon Outlet Partners mall — including the owners of the nearby White Marsh Mall — collected 33,398 valid signatures from county voters to force the outlet mall zoning law to next year's ballot.

The petition effort gathered 68,016 signatures, but 34,618 were invalidated, according to the Baltimore County Board of Elections. The petitioners needed to collect 26,414 signatures to put the zoning law on the ballot.

Lisa Bisenius, senior general manager of the White Marsh Mall, said in a statement that she's pleased the zoning law will go to the voters.

"We are now a step closer in letting the voters decide how they feel about the County Council bypassing the land use approval process for the benefit of one project and sidestepping years of judicial review and community and legal input," Bisenius said in a statement.

Baltimore-based Paragon has been attempting to open an outlet mall on a property near the intersection of Interstate 95 and Route 43 since early 2014. The company won approval from the county for a modification of an earlier plan that had called for apartments, a hotel, offices and shops on the site, but neighbors and the White Marsh Mall appealed.

As the appeals process played out, Baltimore County Council Chairman Cathy Bevins sponsored the zoning bill this summer that allowed the outlet mall to be built without needing the extra layers of approval.

The owner of White Marsh Mall, Chicago-based General Growth Properties, funded a petition effort to put Bevins' zoning bill on the ballot. General Growth spent more than $500,000 on the effort, dubbed "Protect the Process." Workers wearing red shirts solicited signatures at the Maryland State Fair, in the White Marsh Mall and in other shopping areas.

Paragon countered with its own "decline to sign" campaign that cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to R. Kelvin Antill, a Paragon executive. Antill said he's modified his plans to address some neighbors' concerns, including adding top-of-the line stormwater controls and building a ramp from Philadelphia Road onto Route 43.

Paragon also is involved in lawsuits brought by the opponents appealing the county's approval of the project and challenging the zoning law.

Antill said he's still revising his plans and marketing the outlet mall to potential tenants despite the petition and court cases. He declined to name stores or brands, but said they'll be similar to his other projects.

Paragon's newest outlet mall in Eagan, Minn., includes Adidas, Armani, Calvin Klein, Nike, J. Crew and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH among its tenants.

"Everything continues, we just have to keep dealing with the litigation they are throwing out there," he said.

pwood@baltsun.com

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