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Property owners take note: again time for epic rezoning [Editorial]

If Baltimore County performs any regular task that can be described as "epic," it's probably the once-every-four-years zoning overhaul known as CZMP, which stands for Comprehensive Zoning Map Process. The process is gearing up now, set to culminate in September 2016 when the County Council will vote on a revised zoning map.

The ensuing 15 months will see hundreds of rezoning requests submitted for review, ranging from the frivolous to the serious, with most falling in between. Developers with pet projects that do not currently conform to zoning designations for the land where the project is proposed will be petitioning the council to rezone the parcel. Community associations and property owners will be alert for rezoning proposals with the potential for unpleasant encroachment on their suburban communities. County planners will review each one and flag them as conforming or nonconforming as they relate to the county's growth goals.

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It might be assumed that a petitioner must "qualify" in some respect to submit a CZMP request. Nope. Anyone can do it, although the usual participants are individual landowners, contract participants, community organizations, county staff, the planning board and County Council itself.

Zoning often has a direct impact on property value, which is why the process is ripe for controversy. And, it is frequently a zero-sum game with someone's gain in permitted density (with its rise in property value) offset by a neighbor's drop in value because higher density means more traffic, crowded schools, etc.

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Although communities around the county have their zoning issues, the chief CZMP flashpoint in recent years has been Towson. The Greater Towson Council of Community Associations is braced for a wave of rezoning requests from commercial property owners hoping to capitalize on the massive upsurge in development along the York Road corridor. Community groups fought hard against CZMP proposals in 2012 and they expect to do so again in 2016.

The open application filing period for the public is Sept. 1-Oct. 15 (potential applicants are invited to alert the Planning Department by sending pre-application material later this summer). That is followed by filing periods for county agencies. Planning staff will make recommendations at the end of February. Public hearings are scheduled in March by the planning staff and in June by County Council. Meanwhile, all applications are mapped online for public perusal.

It is said the mill of justice grinds slowly, but very finely. This is also true of CZMP. Someone's request this September could emerge a year later as the law of the land. If you have a stake, make your voice heard.

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