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Marks' bill seeks to make mountain biking permitted at Loch Raven

Fifth District County Council member David Marks introduced a bill at the County Council's Monday, April 2, meeting that, he says, will advance the cause of biking and hiking at the Loch Raven Reservoir.

"I believe mountain biking should be allowed in the reservoir — as long as the reservoir's water quality is unharmed," Marks said in an email to the Towson Times announcing the legislation.

The legislation comes on the heels of a resolution the council passed in February that encouraged a compromise between Baltimore City, which owns and operates the reservoir, and mountain bikers, who have been illegally using the trail.

The resolution "apparently wasn't enough," said Marks, "so I am introducing legislation that specifically allows hiking and biking within the reservoir's forest buffer."

Marks said the bill inserts a sentence into the forest buffer statute of the county code that would explicitly allow the recreational activities at the reservoir.

He said changing the language of the code is important, because, "the Baltimore City Department of Public Works has been unwilling to allow mountain biking until the underlying county ordinance has changed."

Marks, who represents Towson, said the measure would not force the county or city to put mountain biking trails in at the reservoir, "but it certainly gives them the opportunity to do so."

Dave Ferraro, president of Mid Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts (MORE), a biking advocacy group, said the organization considers the bill "great."

"I think the clarification of that language will certainly help discussions between MORE and the Department of Public Works," Ferraro said.

"The ordinance before, there was some room for interpretation," Ferraro said, "but this, unlike the resolution, clarifies it so Baltimore City and the Department of Public Works know that it's OK that we recreate at the reservoir."

He said discussions with the city are going well, and that MORE has submitted a proposal that outlines a sanctioned trail system that also would close 60 percent of the existing unsanctioned trails.

That agreement, however, would require language in the ordinance to be clarified.

"That's what Councilman Marks is doing with this," Ferraro said.

A representative for the Baltimore City Department of Public Works could not be reached for comment.

Green tax credit

Also at Monday's council meeting, Marks introduced another bill — co-sponsored with 1st District Council member Tom Quirk — that would expand the county's property tax credit program for energy-efficient homes, to include those that meet the International Code Council's National Green Building Standard.

"In 2010, the County Council passed legislation that provides a property tax credit for three years for either a new home that exceeds the Home Energy Rating System by 40 percent, or for an existing home whose energy performance is increased by 40 percent," Marks said. "The new standard judges not just the unit, but the side development plans and other factors."

The amount of the tax credit would depend on the rating by the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system.

Both bills were introduced at the council meeting on Monday, April 2, and will be discussed at a work session on May 1. If that schedule holds, both would likely be voted upon May 7.

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