Community Association Network

Update:

Topics addressed by CAN have included legislation on "vesting", AIM, windmills and several PUD issues. 

The major issues which the PAC is targeting are:

1.  Broadening the Baltimore County Office of Peoples' Counsel's role in development issues;

2.  Providing greater community involvement in the development and zoning process;

3.  Promoting efforts for balanced agricultural and urban open space preservation with an emphasis on historical     and environmental issues; and,

4.  Reviewing and modifying the traffic process of failing interactions to make traffic control effective and proactive. 



Background:

Carroll Holzer (attorney) and representatives of a spectrum of community associations under the auspices of Bowleys Quarters Community Association (Zoning Committee – Allen Robertson) have met to  discuss the current status of PUDs (Planned Unit Developments) in Baltimore County.  From an initial 16 associations, the network has grown to a current 142 community associations / councils, representing over 300,000 residents of Baltimore County (north to Parkton, east to Bowleys Quarters /  Millers Island, west to Glyndon / Reisterstown and south to Catonsville).  To adequately represent the myriad of associations, a draft issue paper was circulated which outlined background and recommendations / modifications to the current PUD laws.

Originally conceived as land development planning tools, PUDs were envisioned to produce higher quality development standards, integrated reviews and expedited processing than traditional development review mechanisms while providing usable public open spaces and community walkability.  From the initial discussions with representatives of assocations, to the development of the “issues paper on recommendations for PUDs”, the overwhelming majority of community associations expressed the strong desire that all PUD laws and PUD legislative proposals be eliminated because of continuous abuse and customized legislative accommodations at the expense of quality of life issues of respective communities in which they are proposed.  Absent that recommendation, because of existing and proposed projects, the CAN organization recommends that the PUD laws be updated to reflect the pulse, experience e and vision of local communities throughout Baltimore County.  Proposed recommendations / modifications are categorized as process, procedure and technical. 

 

Recommendations:

Process:  A major deficiency in the current laws reflects the “lack of any judicial public hearing” in which communities can effectively and legally present their perspectives and utilize expert witnesses as well as cross examine other witnesses or agency review staff.  Examining the current processing of applications, the group feels that the Hearing Officer (Zoning Commissioner) would be the most capable individual to conduct such a procedure since the Planning Board consists of citizen volunteers who are generally not qualified to conduct a quasi-legal public hearing with cross examinations, expert witness testimony, rebuttals, etc.    

Procedure:  There needs to be early and on-going communication with citizens and community associations affected by proposed PUD projects via sign postings, newspaper and website listings similar to those required by other zoning and development applicants.  In addition, the PUD project concept plan, as currently required, should be submitted to the County Council / or legislative district representative to provide an opportunity to reflect upon and make suggestions as to changes to the proposed plan.  If, after 30 days, the Council / representative has examined and suggested that the plan move forward, the project concept plan should then be submitted formally to Baltimore County agencies / departments for review to assure complete compliance with the Baltimore County Code, established development / zoning requirements and overall County Master Plan.  It should be clearly indicated at numerous junctions of the review process that the Council / representative does NOT approve or endorse concept plans to avoid any impression that the plan has been reviewed and is compliant with the requirements – that task remains solely the  responsibility of the existing development review agencies of County government.

Technical:  The following changes need to be incorporated into the PUD laws so that the projects that utilize this mechanism are actually Planned Unit Developments that benefit communities and not just an intended special interest development project attempting to circumvent the proper zoning and development review process.  

·                     PUDS should only be allowed in urban areas with NO exceptions outside the URDL.

·                     PUDs should be comprised of a minimum size of 100 acres.

·                     There should be NO granting of grandfathering conditions or hardship determinations.

·                     Density should be based upon the underlying zoning of the PUD property.  When converting commercial property to residential use, the density and height should be limited to the restrictions of the predominant adjacent residential properties to the proposed PUD site.

·                     PUDs should NOT allow construction of any buildings within 300 feet of tidal water (NO exceptions, modifications or mitigations).

·                     PUDs should be required to have a minimum of 100 feet of upgraded, unimproved land on all sides of the development - between the PUDS and adjacent properties to create Residential                 Transition Areas (RTA).  RTAs should not be utilized for water management such as run-off ponds.

·                     Variances associated with the applications should to be granted sparingly and should not to be granted for more than a 10% difference to the code.

·                     PUD laws should NOT be modified for specific areas or districts within the County and there should NOT be any retroactive application of current and future PUD law changes in an effort to     circumvent the CZMP cycle and minimize legitimate public participation in the review process.

 

Recent Proposed Legislation:  Recent legislative proposals (23-09 and 41-09) have been floated in an effort to circumvent the CZMP cycle and minimize legitimate public participation in the review process.  These were submitted in direct response to the recent disapprovals by the Baltimore County Board of Appeals of two highly visible PUD projects (Bay Drive and Galloway Creek Condos).  These projects clearly violate the County Code, the County Master Plan, the Critical Bay laws, numerous processing and procedural criteria, as well as the basic definition of a PUD. 

The most recent legislative proposal (Bill 41-09) was submitted by Councilman Bartenfelder on behalf of County Executive Jim Smith, to authorize the Hearing Officer to remand certain concept plans to the Planning Board and their authority in planning, zoning and subdivision control and its application retroactively to previously approved concept plans.  It is critical that this proposal needs to be WITHDRAWN immediately as was 23-09.  Once again, the proposed legislation fails to address the major deficiencies of PUD projects including the use of a legal public hearing for community input.   Furthermore, under NO circumstances, should previous or current PUD applicants be retroactively subject to the provisions of this proposed bill.

Representatives of CAN and attorney Carroll Holzer are available to meet with representatives of the County Council and the County Executive’s office to discuss these recommendations. 

Representative Statements on PUDs by CAN associations:  “PUD process is wrong, broken and should be eliminated if not drastically revised; the PUD process is out of control – it circumvents the CZMP and allows rezoning at will; PUD setbacks should be consistent with current environmental regulations; Bill 41 -09 calls into question the integrity of any politician who sponsors it; Bill 41-09 does not give consideration to or address the citizens' real concerns of the problems with the PUD process; Bill 41-09 will eliminate due process and possibly the appeals process as we know it; this bill only fixes the part of the flawed law and seems to attempt to find ways to get these two bad projects approved”; and “this is a total end-run around any orderly development process and the outcomes of CZMP cycles.”

Sampling of CAN members:  Bowleys Quarters Community Association, Citizens of Miller’s Island, Coalition for the Preservation of Southwest Baltimore County, Greater Timonium Association , Valleys Planning Council, Long Green Valley Association, Perry Hall Community Association, South Perry Hall Improvement Association, Essex / Middle River Civic Association; Pikesville Community Corporation, Parkville Council, Carney Community Association, Vincent Farm / Bird River Association; Overlea Community Association, Rodgers Forge Community Association, Kingsville Community Association, Hillendale Park Association, Dundalk Community Association, Loch Raven Village Community Association, Reisterstown - Owings Mills --Glyndon Coordinating Council, etc .