Balto. Co. weighs step to increase open space; Builders would be asked to allot more parkland


Trying to erase Baltimore County's shortage of parkland, planners are proposing to increase the amount of land home builders must reserve for open space, although the proposal falls short of what citizen groups say is needed.

In the latest attempt to revise the county's open space rules, planners are proposing that builders of subdivisions with 40 or more houses set aside 500 square feet of open, relatively flat land per dwelling to be used for active recreation. They also would be required to contribute 150 square feet per home for "passive" park use.

The donations would be in addition to environmentally sensitive land, such as steep slopes and wetlands, where building is not allowed.

The Board of Recreation and Parks, a citizen advisory group on park issues, wants builders to set aside 1,000 square feet per dwelling -- 650 feet for active park use and 350 square feet for passive use.

"We are still far below what we need," said Victoria S. Gentile, chairwoman of the Board of Recreation and Parks, of the latest proposal.

State law requires the county to have 30 acres of parkland per person, but the county has only 21.2 acres per person.

The county now requires builders to set aside 650 square feet per dwelling and allows them to count environmentally sensitive land toward that goal.

Builders can pay a fee in lieu of the open space if they build subdivisions with fewer than 34 houses.

The advisory group and county staff favor changing that requirement to allow builders of subdivisions with 40 or fewer homes to pay a fee instead of donating land so that the county is not saddled with the problem of caring for multiple small parcels.

The county Planning Board received both proposals on Thursday and scheduled a public hearing for Oct. 7.

The county has tried for more than a decade to update its open space manual, which spells out builders' parkland obligations but has been stalled by builder or citizen opposition.

In July, county planners proposed that the active recreation requirement be changed from 650 square feet per dwelling to 500 square feet.

Planners said the county would end up with more usable recreation space, but the Recreation and Parks Board objected to reducing the amount of land set aside.

Tom Ballentine of the Home Builders Association of Maryland said the builders would have to study the latest proposals before commenting on them.

Pub Date: 9/13/99

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