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Part of Woodlawn proposed for Baltimore County's 1st District

A proposal to move a portion of Woodlawn from the 4th Councilmanic District to the 1st District has drawn favor from 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk, who says he has already begun efforts to revitalize the area.

Quirk said July 31 that a plan from the county's Redistricting Commission, a five-member independent board dedicated to redrawing the county's councilmanic districts, would allow him to serve a united Security Boulevard corridor.

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Under the commission's recommendations, the area surrounding Woodlawn High School, off Security Boulevard on Woodlawn Drive, would be added to Quirk's district, which currently includes Catonsville, Arbutus and a stretch of Security Boulevard in Woodlawn.

But that plan has drawn opposition from Councilman Ken Oliver, who represents the 4th District, which includes that particular area of Woodlawn.

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Oliver said he submitted a resolution asking that an area surrounding Featherbed Lane Elementary School, located further north of Security Boulevard at 6700 Richardson Road, be added to the 1st District instead.

"The reason I did that is because the commission was not fair and equitable with their redistricting," Oliver said. "They're supposed to redistrict according to populations."

While he currently represents a population of 117,000 people, Oliver said the commission's recommendation would cause him to go from having the third largest district to the smallest at a population of 110,000.

"He will go from 108,000 up to 114,000," he said of Quirk. "That's not fair and equitable."

Under his recommendation, Oliver said he and Quirk would both serve a population of 112,000 people.

"To me, that's fair and equitable," he said.

Oliver said redistricting should be based on population rather than geography.

Quirk disagreed.

The Redistricting Commission's decisions are based on the compactness of the proposed district, meaning its areas are unified together, how contiguous it is so that areas are right next to each other, as well as the population, he said.

Under state regulations, a district's population cannot go up or down by more than 5 percent during redistricting — a percentage that subtracting the Woodlawn High School precinct from the 4th District would not exceed, Quirk said.

"It's much more compact than what Councilman Oliver is proposing, which is Featherbed," he said. "It's much more contiguous than Featherbed.

"All the facts make the Woodlawn High School one the obvious choice," he said.

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In addition to uniting the Woodlawn business community along Security Boulevard, the change would "also make District 1 the second most diverse district in Baltimore County, second to District 4," Quirk said.

"The reality is, District 4 is growing, and so, in a couple of years, it might take care of itself anyway because District 4 has a lot of the growth in the county," he said.

Citing efforts to revitalize Security Square Mall, Quirk said he has already been doing a lot of work in the Woodlawn area.

Quirk said he has been working with area property owners and state officials to cultivate public-private partnerships in the hope of eventually turning the mall into a mixed-use development that would include stores, office space and possibly even residential use.

Malls that worked 20-30 years ago now need to be reinvented, Quirk said.

"At first, we saw this cycle where malls would go to big box stores," he said. "Now, we're starting to see a new evolution, which is this kind of mixed-use concept.

"I want to have towns where people can live, shop, work, recreate, walk, bike — so people don't have to get in their car, drive 15 miles to get anywhere, but they can have it all in a town center, so to speak."

Quirk referenced a bill he introduced Aug. 1, that would reduce parking requirements by 25 percent for malls like Security Square, that are over 750,000 square feet in a commercial town-center district, so that they could find better uses for parking that is currently going unused, he said.

"I want to lead the charge in helping really put some new energy there to benefit the community," said Quirk, who said he is also interested in increasing mass transportation opportunities in the area.

"And all these things have a multiplier effect as well," he said.

"If we do a good job over the next several years of really making Security Square Mall what it could be, it's also going to benefit the greater business community all around it."

That includes other areas of the county as well, which will benefit from having strong neighbors, he said.

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