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Middle River rezoning gets council approval

The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore County Council agreed last night to allow more homes to be built in Middle River than currently permitted.

The change was approved as part of a community plan for Middle River that officials said is designed to ensure that growth does out overtake county roads and schools. The council passed the plan 6-0, with Chairman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley absent.

The council also approved amendments designed to scale back parts of the plan.

The most substantive of Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder's changes involved a proposal by the Planning Board to reclassify about 300 acres zoned as rural to land that could accommodate hundreds of homes. Bartenfelder amended the bill to keep about 260 acres rural, pointing to community concerns about crowded roads and schools.

Bartenfelder estimated that without the amendment, about 200 homes would have been allowed to be built in the area. He and the county planning director said they were unsure how many homes could be built in the entire Middle River area after the amendment.

"We still have infrastructure needs down there that we're addressing," Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat, said in an interview before the meeting. "That's why right now wasn't the time just to give it a wholesale change."

One lifelong Middle River resident who worked on the plan said the goal was to plan wisely for growth, as opposed to cutting off growth entirely.

"I take the feeling if you own a piece of property, you should be able to do with it what you want as long as it doesn't impede on anybody else's property," said the resident, Josh Sines.

He and other community leaders said they hope the plan will encourage construction of single-family homes instead of townhouses that might contribute to crowding and lower property values.

"We don't want another area down there that in 10 years will end up being a blight to the neighborhood," Sines said. "We want something that will upgrade our neighborhood."

The eastern community has about 5,000 homes, and 2,000 more units are planned.

The growth plan approved last night calls for industrial projects to be concentrated along White Marsh Boulevard between Windlass Run and Eastern Boulevard. It call for the construction of bicycle and walking paths, and stipulates that "panhandle lots" -- those that include driveways that serve multiple households -- should be limited to properties larger than 2 acres.

The Planning Board had recommended zoning changes for the entire area that would have allowed about 320 more homes to be built than currently allowed. But Bartenfelder said last night that he did not feel comfortable allowing so many homes to be built when upgrades to certain county roads and pumping stations had not been completed.

In other action, the council, in a 6-0 vote, approved County Executive James T. Smith Jr.'s appointment of former County Executive Donald P. Hutchinson to the county Revenue Authority.

And Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat, introduced legislation that calls for a contractor to oversee the licensing of towing companies allowed to respond to accidents.

In the public comment portion after the meeting, several people representing small towing businesses said the legislation would provide more opportunities for small companies to do business in the county. But two members of an association representing county towers said towing service would suffer if the legislation passes.

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