Balto. Co. referendum backers say they have enough signatures

Backers of a referendum drive to challenge Baltimore County zoning decisions say they have gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot in 2014.

The supporters say they have collected more than 70,000 signatures — far more than the number required — and filed them Friday with the county elections board.

A referendum would put all zoning decisions in the districts of Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond and Councilwoman Cathy Bevins on the 2014 ballot. Each district's petition needed more than 28,000 signatures by mid-November.

The elections board still must validate the signatures. The board will have 90 days to do so, said Stuart Kaplow, who represents the Committee for Zoning Integrity, which is pushing the referendum.

"My understanding is that [referendum supporters] are going to collect signatures for a few more days just to make sure they have a high enough number for challenges," Kaplow said.

Some community leaders oppose the referendum effort, which has connections to developers Howard Brown and the Cordish Cos. Developers who would benefit from the rezoning decisions also have been involved in their own opposition effort.

A coalition of community leaders formed a group this month called Don't Sign It! to oppose the referendum. The coalition says hired signature collectors are misleading people about the intent of the referendum and accused developers of a campaign to eliminate competition that would hurt their own projects.

"They've been completely disingenuous, completely unethical in their petition drive," Don't Sign It! coalition coordinator Noel Levy said Friday.

Community activist Shirley Supik, who headed a group that fought the rezoning of the Solo Cup property in the Owings Mills area, called the petition filing "the first step in fixing the way we rezone." Her statement was sent out by Brown's spokesman Friday.

Levy predicted that there would be challenges to the signatures and a "long, hard fight" over the referendum.

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