Councilman David Marks has proposed rezoning several county-owned properties in the Towson area to make it harder to develop them for residential use. The change would add hurdles to selling off open space — such as the Rodgers Forge tot lot or the park in West Towson — and allowing homes to be built there.
“I have proposed the Neighborhood Commons zoning for all public property in Rodgers Forge, including the tot lot, elementary school, and Dumbarton Middle School, as well as the community-owned property at Gaywood,” he told me in an email. “I will also seek to put Neighborhood Commons zoning at Towson Manor Village, Forge, Overlook, and West Towson parks, and likely Towson High School. We are also looking at downzoning the BCPS property at Greenwood and the ridge along West Joppa Road and along Cromwell Bridge Road.
“In 2012, we downzoned a historic amount of property in Greater Towson, and with these changes, will apply ‘open space zoning’ to a number of properties that deserve protection. In other words, if the county ever wants to sell the land for development, the County Council will have to remove the zoning,” he said.
There will be hearings this spring about the rezoning, prior to the County Council making a decision this summer. It’s part of the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process that takes place every four years. The “Neighborhood Commons” designation is, according to county code, meant to “promote more livable communities through the preservation of land for the purpose of community parks, gardens and natural areas.”
Mike Ertel, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, said the group supports the plan, especially “with the county administration’s recent history of trying to take away parks (Towson Manor Village) and sell off properties,” he said. “The NC Designation won’t stop that, but could make it much tougher.”
Currently, the following properties are all zoned “density residential,” which permits “low, medium and high density urban residential development:” the tot lot; the green space in Gaywood; the fields in between Rodgers Forge Elementary and Dumbarton Middle; Forge Park; Overlook Park; West Towson’s park; and Towson High School’s land.
(If you want to see for yourself how specific county properties are zoned, you can visit this website. I suggest not using the Chrome browser; it only worked for me with Safari.)
John Rinehart, president of the Rodgers Forge Community Inc., said he also supports the Neighborhood Commons rezoning. “As the President of RFC, Inc. I am delighted by the continuing efforts of Councilman Marks to preserve the limited amount of green space which remains for the enjoyment of our community,” he said in an email.
“Why should our county land have [Neighborhood Commons] zoning?” Marks said in a statement. “Because if the county ever decides to sell public land for development, the county would have to rezone the property to do so. This provides one additional step for community review. In short, there is simply no reason why this cherished land should have zoning that allows townhouses. Right now, the 33 acres is zoned for more than 350 homes. Let it be zoned for open space!”