Baltimore County's Planning Board on Thursday chose not to take a position on whether to change open space fees that developers pay — an issue that has drawn considerable interest in the booming Towson area.
Rather than formally adopt a report from the county planning staff that recommends no changes in the fees, board members voted to simply forward the report to the County Council, suggesting council members decide whether to change the fees.
The county requires developers to set aside a certain amount of green space in their developments. Developers who can't comply with the rule can ask to pay a waiver fee to the county instead.
In Towson, however, some proposed developments will pay little or no open space waiver fees due to exceptions that were carved out 15 years ago for developments in town center districts, including student housing projects. The 1-million-square-foot Towson Row mixed-use development on York Road, for example, is slated to pay $55,000 in open space fees.
More than 200 Towson residents packed a Planning Board meeting last month to complain about the lack of payments from developers.
During the Planning Board's two-hour meeting Thursday, county Planning Director Andrea Van Arsdale defended her department's report and said Towson already has several parks and open spaces. She said some projects Towson residents have been clamoring for are in the works, including two turf sports fields at local high schools and a reworking of the underutilized concrete Patriot Plaza in front of the county courthouse.
The County Council asked for the Planning Board's advice on the open space fee issue two years ago, but members of the board could not reach a consensus Thursday.
Planning Board member Christina Berzin said she was concerned that if fees are set too high, it would make the county unattractive to developers.
"We want them to make a profit, so we have to be mindful of the fees we put on them," said Berzin, who is appointed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
Planning Board member Scott Jenkins — who was appointed by Towson's councilman, David Marks -- said the idea of not raising fees was unacceptable.
"I think there's a number that can be reached. That number is not zero," he said.
Marks, who said he has been flooded with input from constituents on the open space issue, said in an interview that he's ready to tackle the open space fees.
"The council is eager to get involved in the issue," he said. "The ball is in our court now."