In an unusual move, the Baltimore County Planning Board has rejected a recommendation that would have cleared the way for development around one of the county's busiest intersections.
York Road at Burke Avenue is a major artery for Towson area employees heading to and from work.
Public works officials had asked that the designation of the intersection at the southern edge of central Towson be upgraded because surveys show congestion there may be easing.
Stephen E. Weber, assistant traffic engineer for the county Bureau of Traffic Engineering, said this was the first time the board had rejected a recommendation on an intersection's designation since the county's Basic Services Law went into affect in 1979.
Under the law, building permits cannot be issued within the traffic area that feeds an intersection such as York and Burke. That intersection's traffic area is bounded by Burke Avenue, Osler Drive and Stevenson Lane.
Each year, the Department of Public Works recommends changes in the basic services map, which tracks such county services as water, sewerage and transportation.
Since 1989, the intersection at York Road and Burke Avenue has been designated as severely congested during rush hour. The most recent surveys showed congestion easing somewhat, and the public works department asked that the designation be changed.
Mr. Weber told the board there was no firm explanation for the change "other than perhaps the recession means less people are using their cars or fewer people are working in the area."
Stephen W. Lafferty, a board member from the 4th Councilmanic District, said he was concerned that the most recent survey results were an aberration. Upgrading the designation, and thereby lifting the freeze on building permits, could mean more development and even worse traffic, he argued.
"Then we could find ourselves having to change the designation yet again next year," he said.
County Councilman Douglas B. Riley, R-4th, supported the board's action, saying he, too, thought the survey results were an aberration.
If future traffic surveys indicate improved traffic flow, the designation can be changed next year, he said.
The Planning Board's decision will be forwarded to the County Council.