The County Council voted on Tuesday to limit the potential for new residential structures—including apartment complexes, town homes and single-family homes—in several Perry Hall neighborhoods.
Councilman David Marks announced that a total of 417 acres had been downzoned in the Fifth District, which extends from Towson to Kingsville. Rezoning most impacted Marks' home area of Perry Hall, with limitations placed on 263 acres, including 72 acres zoned as open space.
Track Patch's coverage on the Perry Hall Development page.
Find the approved bill, a log, map and list of approved Fifth District issues in the gallery.
The Tuesday vote marked a conclusive milestone in Baltimore County's Comprehensive Zoning Map Process, which allows officials and community leaders to evaluate the development needs in land swaths every four years.
Issues considered for rezoning were first submitted between September and November 2011, and all property owners were notified of proposed changes over the past year. A series of public hearings were held, and the Office of Planning and the Planning Board submitted opinions.
Marks' motivation during the process, he repeatedly said, was to preserve sensitive areas and lessen the stress on Perry Hall's roads and schools. Several areas that once allowed up to 5.5 homes per acre now will allow only one home per acre.
In opposition, some community members and public officials argued that downzoning needlessly devalues land at the expense of the property owner.
"I am very proud of this rezoning process," Marks stated. "Development will still occur in targeted areas, and landowners will still have the ability to sell their property for profit—but we have lightened the impact of growth on our schools, roads, and infrastructure, and we have preserved more green space in our neighborhoods."
Marks emphasized that the downzoned areas included "environmentally-sensitive land southwest of Perry Hall High School, along the East Joppa Road corridor, and north of Seven Oaks Elementary School."
Extensive downzoning also impacted 87 acres in the Carney and Parkville communities, Marks stated, including 67 acres in the Cromwell Valley and more than 47 acres of open space.
Marks said his support for upzoning some commercial areas in the Fifth District was marginal.
"On a few occasions, I supported some commercial zoning changes to help businesses or to advance infrastructure improvements that cannot be paid for entirely by Baltimore County—but these increases in zoning only constituted five percent of all the changes in the Fifth District, when measured by acreage," he said.
Marks first announced plans to curb Perry Hall development in December 2011. Nearly all of the areas he initially intended to downzone reached final approval by the County Council.
Midway through the process, Marks also gained approval for a new zoning designation, "Neighborhood Commons," commonly called open space, which prevents virtually any new development.
Downzoning proposals largely received the support of the Perry Hall Improvement Association and several homeowners' associations. Community members also used Patch to show their support in columns, letters to the editor and comment streams.
The bulk of resistance to downzoning stemmed from community members and public officials who argued that downzoning violated property owners' rights by lowering the land's market value. Property owners are not compensated when their land is downzoned.
"America’s founders understood clearly that private property is the
foundation not only of prosperity but of freedom itself. Thus, through the
common law, state law, and the Constitution they protected property
rights—the rights of people to freely acquire, use, and dispose of property," Perry Hall resident Steve Redmer stated on Patch.
"By de-zoning a property, the government is taking away the 'use' of that property without consent or compensation, and thus is against everything the founder's stood for," Redmer stated.
The Baltimore County Office of Planning also publically opposed plans to downzone county-owned lands—even in cases where no future development is planned—because it lowers its resale and swap value
"It devalues the property," said Donnell Zeigler, the Fifth District's community planner. "For the most part, the county rarely sells property. Even if it does, it must go through a long process with the county executive and County Council ... it's still protected."
Opponents of downzoning in Perry Hall, however, did not actively organize against an approving vote.
Few impacted property owners even contacted Marks' office after they were notified of rezoning proposals, according to Marks and property owners contacted by Patch.
Marks repeatedly expressed confidence that all of the rezoning proposals he supported would gain approval by the County Council—a confidence justified after Tuesday's vote.
Do you agree or disagree with extensive downzoning in Perry Hall? Tell us in the comments.