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Anti-outlet petition effort cost White Marsh mall owners $500K

Owner of White Marsh Mall spent $500K on petition to fight proposed outlets nearby.

The owner of shopping malls in White Marsh and Towson has now spent more than half a million dollars in a petition effort aimed at blocking a proposed outlet mall.

Chicago-based General Growth Properties reported this week spending $310,223.76 on the petition drive, on top of $208,889.03 it reported last month

The petition effort backed by General Growth collected 67,633 signatures on its petition – well beyond the required 26,414 signatures to put a zoning law on the ballot that favors the proposed outlets in White Marsh.

General Growth is opposed to the plans from Baltimore-based Paragon Outlet Partners, which wants to build a 100-store outlet center near the intersection of Interstate 95 and Route 43, a few miles from the White Marsh Mall.

Baltimore County's Board of Elections is reviewing the submitted signatures, a process that will take until December, said Katie Brown, the board's director.

The signatures must be from registered county voters in order to count toward the 26,414-signature requirement. Acknowledging the likelihood that many signatures would be thrown out, General Growth officials said they aimed to collect more than double the required number.

If the petition is successful, Baltimore County voters will decide during the 2016 election whether to uphold or reject a zoning law that benefits the Paragon outlets. The law allows outlet malls as a matter of right, without extra approvals, on properties that are adjacent to Interstate 95 with a certain type of zoning.

The law was passed unanimously by the Baltimore County Council in August, which undercut a zoning appeals process that had been brought by General Growth and some concerned neighbors.

Paragon officials said they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their own "decline to sign" effort. They are not yet required to file financial reports.

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