Baltimore County voters will likely have to decide the fate of two zoning bills next year in what appears to be the first successful attempt to force a county law to referendum.
"They should make it with both," said Katie Brown, chief of elections in Baltimore County.
Board of Elections workers are scheduled to work 12-hour shifts this weekend and through much of next week trying to meet a Jan. 14 deadline to certify the ballot issues.
Two groups, the Committee for Zoning Integrity and the Committee for Zoning Transparency, are attempting to force zoning bills for the 2nd and 6th Districts to referendum. At issue are plans to redevelop two properties—the Solo Cup property in Owings Mills and the Middle River Depot property near Martin State Airport.
Backers of the two groups include David Cordish and David S. Brown Enterprises which paid $225,000 to mount the signature collection effort.
Cordish opposes the redevelopment of the Middle River Depot project known as Middle River Station fearing it will cause Walmart to leave his Carroll Island Shopping Center. David S. Brown Enterprises opposes the Solo Cup project known as Foundry Row because it will compete with the Owings Mills Metro Centre project now under construction.
In October, the two groups delivered the signatures of more than 40,000 registered county voters for each bill to the board of elections. In November, they brought the total combined number of signatures up to 170,000.
As of Friday morning, elections workers verified 16,704 signatures for the 2nd District bill and 12,623 for the 6th District bill—about a 70 percent verification rate, according to statistics provided by Brown and the board of elections.
Workers still have more than 20,000 signatures for each bill to verify from the October filing.
The two groups need 28,826 for each bill to have them placed on the ballot in November 2014. It appears that goal is within reach, Brown said.
"Right now, it doesn't look like we'll need to go into the second filing," Brown said. "If they make what they need in the first filing, we'll probably never touch the second filing."
Meanwhile, Greenberg Gibbons, developers of the proposed Foundry Row project held a Jan. 3 community meeting to discuss the project. An attorney for the developer said his client plans to move forward despite the looming referendum.
“We believe we have every legal right – the county also believes we have every legal right – to process this plan,” said David Gildea, attorney for Greenberg Gibbons.