Baltimore County Zoning Law May Halt Development At Former LaFarge Quarry Site In Middle River
PERRY HALL - The battle to stop developers from moving forward with the planned unit development (PUD) on the site of a former LaFarge quarry in Middle River may have found a new ally; Baltimore County zoning law.
Last year, developers with the Chesapeake Real Estate Group applied to construct an industrial park with warehouses on the quarry site. The development has faced significant pushback from community groups with the support of Baltimore County Council member David Marks.
Marks recently passed legislation that allows council members to revoke approval for projects inherited from another council member retroactively. Following the passage of bill 23-23, Marks introduced a resolution to withdraw the LaFarge project, to be considered at a June 5 council meeting.
According to an opinion obtained by the Baltimore Sun, the project may never have been legal.
The 450-acre site sits on an “environmentally enhanced area” intended to protect the local watershed from pollutants; it is also zoned only for residential use. Zoning regulations allow some exemptions, including bed-and-breakfasts, antique shops, and wineries, but not PUDs.
“It appears that the entire LaFarge property is zoned [as] a residential zone,” County Attorney James Benjamin wrote in an opinion obtained by The Baltimore Sun. “Accordingly, the plain language of [the zoning code] would appear to prohibit non-residential uses in a proposed PUD that does not also contain a non-residential zone.”
Benjamin clarified that because council members can amend or modify a project at their discretion, “the issue is unclear” and should be left to a hearing officer to decide.
The LaFarge planned unit development was approved by Baltimore County Director of Planning Steve Lafferty in May 2022.
Marks has previously described the project as "rushed through without the robust analysis it deserved,” and Benjamin’s opinion bolsters that claim.
Zoning law specifies that PUDs are only permitted on land not zoned for commercial use, jeopardizing the LaFarge project.
“If the project progresses on this trajectory, it will be mired in litigation for years,” Marks told the Sun.