Community Issues

County Code Issues

The following are some of the major issues for which I believe significant revisions to the Baltimore County Code are needed to better protect citizens and our property values. I would appreciate any comment or thoughts on these or other subjects.

PUD Process

The PUD process started out years ago as a good thing - an allowance for the owner of a large tract(s) with multiple zonings (inside the URDL) to develop it without the specific constraints of the zoning on the individual parts. Thus, they could rearrange the uses to a more useful configuration in a "mixed use" project. But the original notion (and obvious rule) was that they could not do anything not allowed by the underlying zoning. Over the years, this process has been weakened, first by some allowances outside the URDL and using it for very small parcels without any "mixed-use" plan. It simply became a cheaper and quicker way to get a development done than what was possible under the "normal" development process, which might have depended on a change in zoning. Developers soon viewed at as a "short-cut" - simpler and quicker than going through the proper rezoning process - the every 4 years CZMP.

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Trespass Towing

There are three types of towing:

  • Medallion - when you call to have your broken-down vehicle towed
  • Police - when the police call to have a vehicle towed from a crash scene or dangerously parked on public property
  • Trespass - when a property owner calls to have a vehicle towed that is improperly parked on their private property

The third would more appropriately be called "predatory towing".

My opinion is that trespass towing should be prohibited. It is the same as car theft and deprives the owner of the use of their property without due process. If someone wants a vehicle towed from their private property, they should have to call the police, whose standard procedure is to first try to get in contact with the owner before getting it towed. But, it appears that state law requires the County to allow "trespass towing", but allows the County to establish the rules, procedures, charges, etc.

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A big part of the development process, and the problem, is that the Code allows the ALJ, following a hearing, to grant variances to the Zoning regulations. These requests are rarely denied. Anyone who is willing to spend a few hundred dollars can do pretty much whatever they want. As a popular Council member once said: "variances are handed out like candy".

Although variances are supposed to be limited to situations in which the property is "unique" and the owner would otherwise face a "practical difficulty", they are rarely denied. The oft-quoted rule that they "should be exercised sparingly and only under exceptional circumstances" is being ignored.

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Local Open Space

The Open Space laws exist to ensure that residents have needed play and relaxation areas. The creation of dense housing leads to serious problems of health issues, including mental, because of the lack of outdoor space to stretch and exercise in. Just like many things in our Codes, it starts out good, then degenerates as the County Council (and ALJ) hands out exemptions and variances for special cases to benefit specific developers.

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Updated 2 Dec 2021 by MAP