As Towson becomes urbanized and grows an impressive skyline, one can probe along the canyons surrounding the York Road corridor and notice that open space is a vanishing commodity. Amid the cranes, a modest church lawn or cemetery may be the only places offering a bench next to a patch of grass.

Well, that's the trade off in urban-style development, one might reason. Developers have a license to go high and wide because they pay for it in in-lieu fees, which the county collects to preserve green space elsewhere. One might think these Towson developers are handing over some hefty cash for the right to pave over the county seat and one might imagine that as Towson concrete goes upward and outward, the county parks and recreation budget gets fatter and fatter


One might think that. But one would be wrong.

In fact, the county's current fee structure includes rules that have resulted in some projects in Towson being charged minimal or zero fees for open space. Someone is having their cake, eating it, and then having some extra icing.

This has not gone unnoticed. On June 1, hundreds of people packed into County Council chambers to call for a boost in fees charged to developers to pay for open space they are unable to otherwise provide. Towson activist Paul Hartman predicted a worsening situation as more people crowd into a community with less and less open space. Carol Newill, a Stoneleigh doctor, said people need "green space with big trees" for a healthy lifestyle.

Even folks from Essex, Parkville and Perry Hall were on hand to attest to the need for more open space, or compensation in revenue.

Council members, who are in the early stages of fee-increase discussions for developers, were attentive. Several said the fee schedule needs an overhaul. Councilman David Marks added the cautionary note that burdensome fees could scare off development, creating no revenue. We think there is plenty of room between the current fees and what might be deemed burdensome.

Meanwhile, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has said he prefers no change in the fee structure. A report from his planning staff looked into fee changes, but recommended none.

We think in-lieu fee increases are overdue. Towson and other Baltimore County communities are becoming development plums. Those who pick the plums must be required to leave something behind. We owe it to future generations if not ourselves.