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Democrats running for Baltimore County Council seat in Pikesville area set focus on crime, sprawl

Three Democrats are vying to replace Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who is running for county executive.
Three Democrats are vying to replace Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who is running for county executive. (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Candidates for Baltimore County Council from the Pikesville area are pledging to pursue policies to reduce crime and curtail excessive development in a district that shares a border with the city.

The three Democrats vying to replace Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who is running for county executive, say county government needs to do more to redevelop older communities while slowing the march of sprawl into rural areas in a district cradled between Reisterstown and Falls roads.

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Development is always a key issue in the council's second district, which includes communities such as Pikesville, Reisterstown and Brooklandville and part of Owings Mills. County council members, with the authority to advance or kill projects, hold significant control over development.

Almond, who said she is not endorsing any of the candidates, has been criticized for some of her zoning decisions, such as supporting the Foundry Row commercial development at an old factory in Owings Mills and allowing houses to be built on a former Lutherville golf course near an environmentally sensitive trout stream.

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Candidate Izzy Patoka said developers who want to build in the district need to better engage their neighbors when devising compromises. Patoka, a former government planner who now works for a hospital, wants the county to work with a broader selection of developers.

"Right now, development is controlled by a few law firms and a few development companies, and I think that stifles creativity," he said. "There are a lot of creative developers who don't have a seat at the table."

Patoka said he would evaluate development proposals on their merits.

"It's got to be respectful to communities. It's got to be respectful to the environment. It's got to be respectful to Main Streets, small businesses," he said.

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Candidate Rick Yaffe said developers need to consider their neighbors and the environment, and projects should improve the community.

"I want people to love Baltimore County," he said. "I want people to move to Baltimore County."

Yaffe, who owns a private ambulance company, said he'd use his business background and his experience on the county's planning board to help forge compromises on zoning and development.

Yaffe, Patoka and the third Democrat, Harlan Zinn, said revitalizing Pikesville's downtown corridor along Reisterstown Road would be a key priority.

The county is working on a plan for the area, and the state is studying options for redeveloping the old National Guard Armory there.

"It's been chaos for 50 years," said Zinn, a licensed professional counselor.

Zinn wants county officials to impose a temporary halt on all new development until they can devise the best plans for existing communities.

Crime also is a concern for the candidates. A rash of home burglaries hit part of the second district over the winter. Three men were arrested in January.

Patoka said he'd encourage county police to work with Baltimore City police on crime prevention, because the district borders the city line.

Yaffe said he supports more proactive policing and investments in improving 911 technology.

The winner of the June 26 Democratic primary will face Republican Michael Lee of Pikesville in November's general election. Sixty-two percent of the district's voters are Democrats. Twenty-one percent are Republicans.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who represented the area on the council from 1994 until 2010, is running for the Democratic nomination for governor. He has not endorsed a candidate in the home district.

Crime and public education were among the top issues Tuesday night as the two Republican candidates for Baltimore County executive faced off at an Essex forum.

Patoka, 60, has been endorsed by his former boss in Baltimore and Annapolis: former mayor and governor Martin O'Malley.

Patoka had more than $71,000 in his campaign account at the start of the year, including donations from O'Malley, his allies and from the former governor's O'Say Can You See Political Action Committee.

Patoka has worked in Baltimore and state government as a planner, a budgeting official and a neighborhood liaison. He currently works for Life Bridge Health.

He said his experience in and out of government has prepared him to serve on the county council.

Yaffe, 62, had about $45,000 in his campaign account at the start of the year, with some contributions coming from developers and land-use attorneys. Other donations came from political action committees controlled by firefighters and real estate agents, records show.

Yaffe founded Butler Medical Transport after careers in the restaurant industry and as a home builder. He serves on the county's Planning Board and Landmarks Preservation Commission. He said county government needs to improve the qualify of life for residents.

"While government can be good in helping people, it also can be an obstacle," he said

Zinn, 68, had $250 in his campaign account at the start of the year.

"I don't think it's that important," he said. He also refuses to fill out candidate questionnaires from organizations or the media.

Zinn, who runs an online life coaching business, says the county executive should vote alongside the County Council and requiring annual mental health exams for public school students. Instead of hiring more police officers or psychiatrists for schools, he wants to hire younger staffers who he says would be more approachable for students who have problems.

"I tend to think unconventionally," Zinn said.

BALTIMORE COUNTY COUNCIL DISTRICT 2

Three Democrats are running for their party's nomination in Baltimore County's second council district, which includes northwest communities such as Pikesville, Reisterstown and Brooklandville and part of Owings Mills. The winner will face Republican Michael Lee in November's general election. The seat is open: Current Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Democrat, is running for county executive.

Izzy Patoka:

  • Age: 60
  • Residence: Pikesville
  • Experience: Director of community development, LifeBridge Health; former deputy planning director in Baltimore County; aide to former Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Rick Yaffe:

  • Age: 62
  • Residence: Owings Mills
  • Experience: Founder, Butler Medical Transport; member, Baltimore County Planning Board; member, Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission; Community College of Baltimore County trustee.

Harlan Zinn:

  • Age: 68
  • Residence: Owings Mills
  • Experience: licensed clinical professional counselor; runs an online coaching business.

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