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Baltimore Co. resolution would raise open space waiver fees for developers

Resolution calls for developers of apt., condo, dorm units in Towson to pay at least $2,000 per unit

The Baltimore County Council is scheduled to vote next Monday, Oct. 19, on a resolution that its author says would increase open space waiver fees by 1,300 percent for developers of projects in downtown Towson.

"I think it will pass," Councilman David Marks said Monday. Marks has maintained that developers pay too little in such fees and that residents need more funding for open space projects that developers don't provide themselves.

"Quite frankly, my constituents want some certainty that parks and recreation projects are going to get funded," he said.

A council work session on the legislation was scheduled for Oct. 13, and members of the newly formed Green Towson Alliance, made up of environmentally active community leaders in the area, were expected to come to the work session in support of the legislation, Marks said.

Alliance member Joe La Bella, of Towson Manor Square, said he would be submitting written testimony in general support of what he called "a decent bill."

The resolution calls for developers of apartment, condominium and dormitory units in the Towson core to pay $2,000 to $3,500 per unit. The low range would be for projects in the heart of downtown, as "incentive" to develop projects downtown, Marks said. The fee would rise for developments in the Towson area, but not downtown, he said.

Marks said the proposed increase would generate $2.1 million from five of the biggest planned or current projects in the area, including the mixed-use Towson Row project, the 101 York student housing project, a 105-unit apartment project at 703 Washington Ave., a mixed-use project on the former Raytheon site on Joppa Road, and a 400-unit apartment tower and hotel proposed for Towson Circle, which is anchored by Trader Joe's, Pier 1 Imports and Barnes & Noble.

The $2.1 million would be a 1,300-percent increase from the $145,000 that would be generated currently in open space waiver fees for those five projects, Marks said.

The legislation calls for specific open space projects to share the money generated, including a new turf field at Loch Raven High School, improvements to the Dumbarton Middle School field and park improvements in Southland Hills and Towson Manor Village.

The environmental group NeighborSpace, which helps local groups and neighbors protect and improve open space for parks, gardens and trails, would continue to receive 20 percent of the fees, Marks said.

Marks also said several other related bills are expected to be introduced in the coming weeks, including one to prohibit county administrative law judges or members of the executive branch of county government from lowering the fees once they are set by the council.

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