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Baltimore Co. planning board finishes work on rezoning petitions


For the Baltimore County planning board, the work is over.

Having spent the past two months immersed in the comprehensive rezoning process, a once-every-four-years marathon, the 14-member board made its final votes last week on 600 petitions to change the designated use of county land.

The votes marked the end of a process that began in April, when the board held public hearings in each of the seven councilmanic districts. Last month, the board met in work sessions. Dozens of petitions in each district were singled out for separate discussion. Hundreds of others were routinely denied.

* 1st District. The board voted to keep zoning for research parks at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and at Spring Grove Hospital, and agreed with a request by the Greater Oella Community Association to reduce the number of houses that could be built on 200 acres in that community.

* 2nd District. Residents turned out for the public hearing to oppose Baltimore City's request to allow the Cloisters Children's Museum of Baltimore to rezone some of its rural hilltop acreage for commercial use. The city was hoping to raise money to refurbish the mansion that houses the museum. The planning board rejected the city's petition without discussion.

* 3rd District. The sprawling district, with the most open land, had almost 200 rezoning petitions. Those that drew fire from residents and planning staff members included a proposed 3,000-unit housing development on watershed land at York and Phoenix roads, and several warehouse outlets proposed near the heart of upscale Owings Mills. The board rejected these petitions, as well as an apartment building proposed by the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. But the board did vote for the Arundel Corp.'s plan to transform a quarry near Owings Mills into a lake and office park.

* 4th District. This district featured the hottest single issue: Giant Foods' desire to expand onto 3 acres of the county's Forge Park and build a new designer grocery at its site in the 6300 block of York Road. Towson-area residents and recreation league enthusiasts gathered at April's public hearing to say "No." Apparently, the board heard them. Last week, the board rejected Giant's proposal. To satisfy the company's opponents, who are also its customers, an attorney for Giant already had said the company would withdraw its petition if it couldn't find other park land.

* 5th District. In the 5th, the board voted no significant changes in the Perry Hall and White Marsh areas, after the planning staff recommended more studies of that growing part of the county.

* 6th and 7th districts. These districts featured efforts to use zoning to ease the increasingly incompatible intermingling of industry and homes. Planners suggested reducing housing density on some parcels, restricting manufacturing uses on others, and employing a new category -- the service employment zone -- to create a buffer of offices and warehouses that don't generate traffic and noise.

Despite the board's actions, the issues can flare up again. The planning board's votes now go to the County Council, which will hold its own public hearings before voting on the zoning maps by Oct. 16.

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