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Towson residents, leaders reject proposed zoning changes

If you were to ask the average Maryland resident detailed questions about zoning and land use, you'd likely be met with a blank stare. Most people tend not to think about these issues until they affect one's immediate surroundings. That's precisely why community leaders and residents of a Towson, Maryland, neighborhood packed a public hearing earlier this month.

Baltimore County's Comprehensive Zoning Map Process, held every four years, offers business owners, citizens and homeowners the chance to propose zoning changes - or protest them. At a June 4 hearing in the 5th District, there was no shortage of opposition to some of the changes already proposed by some property owners. Although the Planning Board has already recommended rejecting most of the proposed changes, residents attended the hearing to ensure their voices were heard by the County Council, which is charged with accepting or rejecting the changes.

One of the 21 proposed changes in Towson involves the Towson Triangle, a group of parcels that one Planning Board member wants rezoned for high-density commercial space. Doing so, the member said at a hearing in March, could provide a means to unify Towson University with the heart of downtown. But the vice president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations said a community plan adopted 20 years ago prohibits expansion of Towson's commercial district. The commander of the local American Legion post, which is part of the Triangle, also opposes the change, saying it could force the post out of the area because it would no longer be considered a suitable use.

Another proposed change would allow higher density and some commercial space at the Colony at Kenilworth, an apartment community that has had trouble with student drinking. The county Planning Board initially recommended the zoning change until one member pointed out that county police had been called to the property almost 350 times in a two-year span. A better option, the board member and residents say, would be to work on a solution that addressed the student drinking issue.

Residents may not seem to care about zoning and land use issues, but when they affect a neighborhood's quality and way of life, disputes can quickly arise. The good news is that in this case, local government officials seem genuinely interested in hearing residents' and community leaders' concerns.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Residents say they don't want change in Towson area zoning," Jon Meoli, June 5, 2012

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