The Baltimore County Council will make a series of zoning decisions this week that will guide development in the county for years to come.
Council members are scheduled to vote Tuesday on the county's Comprehensive Zoning Map Process, a review conducted once every four years.
The decisions will affect thousands of acres on more than 500 properties across the county.
Landowners, citizens groups and county officials have proposed dozens of zoning changes ranging from commercial tracts in Catonsville and Towson to residential properties on the county's east side to agricultural land in the north county.
Several council members say they plan to utilize a relatively new tool designed to protect schools, parks and other county-owned properties from development. Hundreds of acres are proposed for the Neighborhood Commons designation — a provision that potentially prevents the property from ever being developed.
The Commons designation was originally designed to protect open space owned by community associations, but was expanded last year to include county-owned properties.
That move came after Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's controversial moves to sell county properties including the North Point Government Center in Dundalk and a fire station in Towson for private development.
Under provisions of Neighborhood Commons, any property owner who wants to sell or develop the land would have to get the designation removed during a zoning review process.
The county's 5th District, which stretches between Towson and Perry Hall, has 161 rezoning proposals under consideration Tuesday – the most of any of the county's seven districts. Those requests include several Neighborhood Commons designations being sought by Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents the district.
Other requests relate to projects in the booming Towson downtown. In the Towson Triangle — an area bounded by Bosley Avenue, York Road and Towsontown Boulevard — Marks has said he will not support zoning changes sought by the American Legion Post on York Road and also by DMS Development, a company hoping to build a student housing high-rise in the area.
Joe La Bella, president of the Towson Manor Village Community Association, called Marks' decision a "great victory," but said residents remain concerned about development pressures in the neighborhood.
Meanwhile Katie Pinheiro, executive director of the Greater Towson Committee, said the Triangle is a "gateway" to downtown Towson that's an eyesore — and could be helped by new development.
At the other end of the district, Marks said, he plans to support downzoning more than 1,200 acres on sites throughout the area — a move he said will prevent further overcrowding at Perry Hall middle and high schools.
"I do not relish taking these steps, which I know will be opposed by some property owners," said Marks. "But we cannot allow development to occur … while these schools grow more and more crowded."
The wishes of each council member weighs heavily in the process. Because of the tradition of "councilmanic courtesy," other members of the council generally support whatever each member wants in his or her district.
While Marks has announced many of his zoning decisions in recent weeks, most other council members have elected to wait until the vote to announce the bulk of their decisions.
The council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Historic Courthouse at 400 Washington Ave. in Towson.
Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Rachael Pacella contributed to this article.