Marks touts 'largest downzoning in Towson' as council signs off on CZMP

The yearlong Comprehensive Zoning Map Process, Baltimore County's quadrennial rezoning campaign, came to a close Tuesday night when the County Council voted on the package at a special session.

After the meeting, Towson's representative on the council, 5th District Councilman David Marks, touted what he called the "largest downzoning in Towson" history, a result of efforts to keep open space in his district undeveloped.

Ultimately, Marks supported the reduction of zoning densities on 66 acres in Towson, 55 of which were zoned as open space, along with 67 acres in Cromwell Valley that were downzoned as well.

On many CZMP issues, Marks ultimately sided with the community in limiting development in some of Towson's most densely populated areas.

Earlier this month, he announced that the Prospect Hill Cemetery, which sits just north of Towson City Center, would be downzoned to DR-1 NC, an open-space designation he created that protects publicly owned open spaces.

That new designation was also used to protect the Southland Hills park, the "green ravine" on Towsontown Boulevard in West Towson, 41 acres of open space off Cromwell Bridge Road and 37 acres of city-owned land that currently houses the Mount Pleasant Golf Course.

"Of all the issues in Towson, the one I'm happiest we made was the downzoning of Mount Pleasant Golf Course," Marks said.

With the overcrowded schools in the area, he said development of the land would create too much of a burden to Towson's schools.

Ruling on city tracts

Mount Pleasant was one of several city-owned tracts that Marks recommended to be downzoned, including the former Wachs Water facility, but Marks never heard anything about the decisions from Baltimore City officials. City-owned land is not subject to county zoning laws, and would only go into effect if the city sold the land.

He said just one tract was upzoned in Towson, an acre of land between Virginia Avenue and East Towsontown Boulevard that he said was a reasonable request because of its proximity to downtown.

But on three high-profile issues, Marks' decision to maintain the current zoning was what it took to assuage community concerns.

Marks raised The Colony at Kenilworth as an issue within the zoning review process as a means to bring its owners into discussions about the raucous student parties that take place in the apartment complex. But the owners used the CZMP opportunity to request higher zoning for a new complex.

Marks, however, said he wanted to see plans for the development, and with the help of Planning Board member Nancy Hafford, the Colony's proposal failed.

Bosley and Triangle

Additionally, Marks opposed five issues raised by local attorney Charles Brooks that aimed to expand Towson's downtown business district, particularly on the west side of Bosley Avenue.

The request would have changed the buffer zone that allows for residential offices to a zoning that allows for larger office buildings and some commercial uses.

"I do believe there could be some redevelopment along this route, but that can occur through a planned unit development that engages the community," he said in a statement.

Additionally, the "Towson Triangle," which houses several businesses and the Towson American Legion between York Road, West Burke Avenue and West Towsontown Boulevard, was left unchanged.

Former Planning Board member Robert Latshaw requested that the property be included in an expanded downtown Towson business core, but the community and the American Legion opposed — and Marks ultimately left the development future of downtown Towson's most enticing land to a committee he formed last year.

"The issues the community cared about most were the Towson Triangle, and Bosley Avenue, and I tried to respect that," Marks said.

He also said that his policy of releasing decisions over the course of the summer, beginning with the ones he felt were of the greatest significance to constituents, was "fairer to the public" than announcing them all at once as the vote approached.

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