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Towson residents want developers to pay more for open space needs

Towson residents press county planning board to increase developer open space fees

Dozens of Towson-area residents packed a Baltimore County Planning Board meeting Thursday night to press for larger open space fees from developers.

The Planning Board is reviewing the fees that the county charges to developers who can't fit enough open space within their projects. Their recommendations will be sent to the Baltimore County Council.

In Towson, where there is significant development and redevelopment, many projects are charged little in open space fees due to exemptions in the rules. This has frustrated community activists and parents who say there aren't enough parks to enjoy or fields to support sports programs.

"We're not against developers, but we want open government and we want open space," West Towson resident Josh Glikin told members of the Planning Board during a public hearing Thursday night.

In new developments in the county, developers are required to set aside 1,000 square feet of open space for each residential unit. But a developer can instead pay a waiver fee, which varies based on the development's zoning category.

A report drafted for the Planning Board by the county's Department of Planning staff recommends keeping the open space waivers in place, including the exemptions that limit the fees paid by projects in Towson's town center district and eliminates fees for student housing developments.

Many Towson residents urged the board to increase the fees, as soon as possible, in order to seize the opportunity to collect significant open space fees from pending development projects, such as the 1-million-square foot proposed Towson Row mixed-use project on York Road.

The hearing room in the county's Jefferson Building was packed to standing-room-only, with the crowd spilling out into the lobby. The crowd included dozens of children, many wearing shirts or jerseys from the Towson Recreation Council.

West Towson resident David Witherspoon said sometimes adults forget what it feels like "to run in an open field" and why that's important for children.

He then asked kids in the room to stand for the remainder of his allotted speaking time to remind Planning Board that their needs are important.

Planning Board Chairman N. Scott Phillips said board members would discuss the open space report at their next meeting April 2. A vote on the report would come April 2, or at a later meeting.

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