Communities' plans hit wall

The Baltimore Sun

Land-use plans that officials consider crucial to the future of two Baltimore County communities are likely to be delayed or scaled back until the county Office of Planning completes its mandatory comprehensive master plan.

The queue for various community plans, including Middle River and Rosewood in Owings Mills, is growing so long that one Planning Board member suggested last week that the office accept no more requests until the 2010 completion of the master plan. The board delayed action on that recommendation.

"We have had a lot of requests over the last year for community plans, and they are stacking up," said Arnold F. "Pat" Keller III, county planning director. "We are compelled to do the master plan first."

Council Chairman Joseph Bartenfelder and Councilman Kevin Kamenetz said they will continue their efforts to have the local plans prepared.

Bartenfelder has requested a Middle River Development Coordination Plan to guide an area that is likely to see large-scale development, particularly along the Route 43 corridor.

"There is some urgency and a great need for a coordination plan so that we are ready once this real estate funk is over," he said. "Everyone needs to know who is planning what."

Kamenetz, who represents the Owings Mills area, wants a county vision for the Rosewood Center, a 225-acre state hospital property near Reisterstown Road that the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will vacate July 1. After Rosewood closes, the property could be available to what Kamenetz called many competing interests. He wants a community plan that recommends uses acceptable to the state.

"If it is just getting people together to discuss uses, that may happen and can probably be handled expeditiously," Keller said. "What we need is consensus on use and appropriate density."

That consensus can come only with a community plan, Kamenetz said. He hopes the Planning Board will revisit the issue and lend its support to the effort at its next meeting, he said.

"I don't think the Planning Board understands the importance of a Rosewood plan, particularly in terms of its timing," Kamenetz said. "We are working with the state to coordinate this effort, and the state is fully supportive of our goal. This has to be done within the time frame. It will require additional work, but we are up to it."

The start of the Middle River document is probably a year away, Keller said. But, he added, the master plan effort, which is under way, might lay some of the groundwork for development on the county's east side.

Compiling the document will include numerous meetings with neighborhood groups, businesses and developers.

"This area is a real hotbed for opportunity," Bartenfelder said. "The extension of Route 43 to Eastern Avenue will lead to business development, and with the emphasis on living where you work, residential development has to accompany that."

The Planning Board has asked Keller for a timetable and a description of the scope of the work involved in preparing a Middle River plan.

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