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What is surprising about the Greater Towson Residential Task Force is not the 11 recommendations from the group of real estate agents, landlords, apartment complex owners, and neighborhood and Towson University representatives.

It is the fact that task force members with such different agendas were able to reach that much consensus.

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Councilman David Marks formed the task force in March in light of the sometimes problematic presence of 3,000 Towson University students living off campus, most in neighborhoods close to the school.

He appointed former Towson councilman Wayne Skinner chairman and charged the group with exploring the situation, which often involves a clash of lifestyles and resulting acrimony, and making recommendations that ideally would benefit the students, their neighborhoods and their landlords.

Both landlords and community association members expressed no confidence in county code enforcement efforts — mainly because of the county's willingness to forgive financial punishment for chronic offenders, Skinner said.

Surprisingly enough, "the only really contentious issue" involved possibly setting a limit on the number of unrelated tenants who could occupy units in an apartment complex, he said. "And the recommendations we did agree on were very reasonable."

Marks was pleased with the results.

"I really appreciate the thought that went into these suggestions," he said in a statement, noting that some recommendations would not require a lot of work while others might be expensive and difficult to carry out.

"Our office will see what we can implement," he said.

The recommendations are:

* To better promote the correct Towson University telephone number and email to be used by residents having problems with students.

* To educate community leaders on the process for police to handle noise complaints and what is required from the public.

* To educate the community on how to file a complaint through the Public Nuisance Law.

The task force recommended using various venues such as community news letters, bulletins, emails, PDF files and community newspapers to publicize contact numbers and procedures pertinent to the three objectives above.

* To follow up on revising the county rental registration form to include information about occupancy limits.

*To provide real estate agents with easy access to the county's occupancy code through search terms such as "two unrelated adults," "rental registration" and "rental occupancy limits." Occupancy limits may be defined in both the law and the zoning regulations.

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* To follow up on real estate agents adding a clause to the buyer's contract outlining the county's occupancy code and rental registration.

* To monitor the county code enforcement office to determine if, in fact, administrative law judges are now imposing some or all of the available fines and penalties.

* To have the county code enforcement office update and rework its database to make information on the status of a case more accessible.

* To establish a small work group focusing on troubled apartment complexes in the Towson area.

According to the task force report, this work group could discuss specific incentives to encourage a more cooperative atmosphere with TU, the county and the surrounding communities. Some of the tools for consideration are drafting a law similar to the Public Nuisance Law to include apartment complexes that don't have on-site security personnel, charging apartment complexes for excessive police calls and setting up a district with guidelines addressing specific problems with troubled complexes.

* To develop an online landlord handbook and a class for landlords to learn the do's and don't's of renting.

The task force suggests that the county would record the landlord's completion of the class, which would not be intended for apartment complex owners.

* To have the rooming house/boarding house law removed from the books because the county hasn't granted a permit for one for many years.

Marks noted "there has been a lot of progress in strengthening the relationship between Towson University and the community."

Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, agreed. "We have made great strides and the task force recommendations will help reinforce our efforts," she said.

The Greater Towson Council of Community Associations and Towson University have worked well together over the past few years to strengthen their relationship and partner to make Towson a more desirable place to live, said organization president David Kosak.

"However, student housing remains our biggest challenge. The task force is working to build on the existing partnerships in Towson to find a solution that will best serve our community."

Marks pointed out that the university expects to continue growing. "We need to tighten code enforcement and work for more student housing on or immediately near campus, not in the neighborhoods," he said.

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