An ongoing spat over the Loch Raven Reservoir may have led County Councilman David Marks to propose downzoning for two city-owned properties.
Wednesday evening, Marks announced the first three of his zoning decisions in Towson. The three parcels in Towson—10 acres, in all—are all slated for downzoning, most of it under the new neighborhood commons zoning, which prohibits nearly all development.
Two of the properties are owned by Baltimore City, and all are around Aigburth Manor and along East Burke Avenue. Marks is making quick use of a bill he allowing for the neighborhood commons, or open space, zoning; that zoning is being used on two of his requests.
Marks said in an interview that, although the downzoning was primarily motivated by community concerns with the city-owned properties, his difficulties on issues regarding mountain biking at Loch Raven Reservoir played into his decision to downzone them.
"My experience with the mountain biking legislation was very frustrating, and I did not get the type of dialogue that I thought Baltimore County deserved," Marks said.
Though it's unlikely that the city will ever try to sell parts of, for example, the Towson Reservoir, Marks wanted to have controls in place to make it difficult for the city to sell or for a developer to build something against neighbors' wishes.
"In Baltimore County, any time the county property is sold off there has to be a discussion before the County Council. We don't have any protections with a city-owned property, and I don't have much confidence that they would seek a dialogue given the experience I've had."
Under the county's quadrennial rezoning process, the Baltimore County Planning Board may make recommendations but the County Council ultimately has the final say.
Paul Hartman, an Aigburth Manor resident and vice president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, said residents asked Marks to make sure the city-owned properties, particularly the Wachs lot, were downzoned.
"They were kind of zoned pretty high residential, so we asked David Marks if he could downzone those so in the event that the city sells them they wouldn't be able to build apartment buildings on them."
Marks said he will announce more zoning recommendations later this summer.
A city spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Marks' three zoning requests announced Wednesday:
- A one-acre parcel on Burke Avenue, east of Aigburth Avenue, currently used by Baltimore City contractor Wachs Water Works and owned by Baltimore City. Marks is recommending that is be downzoned from 16 residential units per acre to one per acre.
- Nearby, Marks wants to downzone the 8.5 acre Towson Reservoir at the corner of Hillen Road and Stevenson Lane from 5 units per acre to neighborhood commons, "to prevent development if the city ever sells any part of the property," Marks said in an email.
- Marks also plans to downzone the 1.2-acre Burkleigh Square neighborhood park from 5.5 units per acre to neighborhood commons.