The Baltimore County Council voted last night to adopt a new zoning map for District 5, which includes Towson, that maintains limits on high-density development in the downtown Towson Triangle and allows Goucher College to go forward with a proposal to develop nine acres on its campus.
The council unanimously approved the map, as well as all revisions requested by 5th District Councilman David Marks, as part of an overall vote on a countywide zoning map.
Every four years the county hears requests to change the current zoning of properties — thereby changing what can or can't be built on those properties — from residents, business owners and elected officials through its Comprehensive Zoning Map Process. The requests first come before the Baltimore County Department of Planning, which issues a recommendation on each. The Planning Board then reviews the requests and holds a public hearing on them, after which the board issues its recommendations. This year, the council weighed more than 500 zoning requests countywide, including 161 in County Council District 5.
The council issues the final decision regarding the requests, and during a special council meeting last night, members offered revisions to the planning board's recommendations before casting a final vote on the map. Marks agreed with the planning board on 21 of the 161 requests in his district. For every other item, he had to individually offer a change, which was then voted on by the full council, which voted unanimously in favor of Marks on every change.
Under the map the council approved, the Towson Triangle, which is bounded by York Road, Bosley Avenue and Towsontown Boulevard, will not get the downtown-style zoning sought in separate requests from the American Legion Post 22 and DMS Development.
Nancy Hafford, a planning board member and executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, said she was disappointed with that decision. The zoning denial was a setback for the proposed student housing development, 101 York, though developers can still pursue the project as a Planned Unit Development.
The council also voted to change 4.65 acres of publicly-owned land in the triangle to include a Neighborhood Commons designation, which Marks said will help preserve green space there.
Goucher College will receive the downtown-style zoning it requested on 8.62 acres, after the college and neighboring communities reached a covenant that limits what type of development can occur on the property, according to Marks. A hotel, conference center, restaurant and housing are among the permitted used; uses such as service stations are prohibited, according to Marks. On its website, Goucher has posted a possible plan for the site that includes a hotel, residences and a conference center.
"This was the most time-consuming and difficult zoning issue in my six years on the County Council," Marks said of the Goucher request, in a statement Aug. 30. "We were working on the covenant agreement until the day before the Council vote."
The council also set the boundaries of the new Downtown Towson overlay district, which was created through a Marks-sponsored bill the council passed Aug. 1. The district will be composed of 254.94 acres downtown, including the Goucher parcel.
In describing the new district, Marks said it will have a "market-driven approach to parking requirements, and improves environmental, lighting, and connectivity standards." Proposed projects within the district's boundaries would also be subject to review by a panel made up of architects and other industry experts, and public input from citizens.
Critics of the new district have said they want to see more environmental protections and open space requirements on developments within it.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the total number of zoning issues the County Council considered.