Community Issues - Special Laws

Bill 106-20, Uses in BLR (and RO) in South Towson Design Reveiw Area

Sponsor: Marks
Benefits: several businesses at 6501-6609 (RO zone) and 6701-6911 York Rd (BLR zone)

I was told that this Bill was a collaborative effort between Councilman Marks and the local community to ensure that numerous appropriate businesses, some of which already existed (especially Pedal Fun and the cat hospital), could legally operate. There is no doubt that the resulting businesses are good for the area (except maybe the brewery), but that does not justify using a faulty legislative process to achieve the end result.

This bill demonstrates the absurdity of the Zoning Regulations - listing every specific kind of business as allowed. There needs to be a better way to categorize the types of businesses/activities allowed/ not allowed in a zone, so that an administrative action could determine that a specific use is permitted.

This Bill is illegal and wrong for so many reasons that it is hard to know where to begin.

This bill, as originally introduced, would add, by right in BLR within the South Towson Design Review Area (shown at right in purple), the following:

  • Music studio
  • Learning center
  • Yoga or fitness studio
  • Bowling alley
  • Veterinarian
(This BLR area, covering 6701-6911 York Rd was "downzoned from BL to BLR during the CZMP 2020. Any use allowed under BL but not BLR would be "grandfathered". The final 3 in this list were deleted during the legislative session and re-added as below, since the intended yoga, bowling and vet businesses were not within the BLR.)

During the legislative session, significant amendments were made including adding:

  • Within South Towson Design Review Area, south of Dumbarton Rd, North of Dunkirk, east of York only the following:
    • Animal grooming
    • Bowling alley
    • Butcher shop
    • Food processing, including coffee roasting and bakery
    • Furniture store
    • Restaurant with outdoor seating
    • Shipping and Printing store
    • Schools
    • Vet office
    (Note that Dumbarton Rd does not exist east of York Rd. Since the area being referred to is that which is zoned BLR, it is not necessary to provide road boundaries. It consists of the multiple properties at 6701-6911 York Rd which currently includes a cat hospital, bowling lanes, fitness studio, ice cream shop, bakery, and raw juice bar.)
  • And by Special Exception in same area:
    • Class 5B Brewery (interesting, since the 1922 deed covenant for this whole 97 acre area says "no intoxicating liquors shall ever be manufactured or sold on the premise".)
  • Extending it to also apply to RO zones and allow the following, by right, "south of Dunkirk Rd":
    • Bicycle shop
    • Acupuncture and wellness office
    • Beauty salon
    • Yoga, fitness studio, or personal training facility
    (This would apply to the properties at 6501-6609 York Rd, which includes a bicycle shop, dentist, and a yoga place. Since the original legislation was not about RO zones, this addition at the final legislation session was illegal. This wording results in additional confusion since there are areas "south of Dunkirk Rd" that are not zoned RO. Are these 4 new uses allowed there?)

The "South Towson Design Review Area" was created by Bill 67-20. The map at the right was taken from the County's MyNeighborhood website and it is included in the "Comprehensive Manual of Development Policies". The County Code 32-4-204, which lists Design Review Areas, does not include any such area, which leads to confusion.

This bill is defective in that it establishes a legislative allowance (by a Bill) in an area that may be modified by resolution.

Significant amendments were made at the final legislative session on Dec 7, including applying the allowances to RO, something that should have triggered withdrawing the Bill and the introduction of a new one to allow citizens the opportunity to review and comment on the new provisions. Citizens who might be affected by these additional allowances (think of a brewery being suddenly allowed adjacent to your house) were denied the opportunity to oppose this. Advance public notification of bills is required by the County Charter (and common decency). As a further indication of the problem with the legislative process in Baltimore County, this Bill was firstly considered at the Nov 16 meeting, but the minutes reflect that consideration was "extended" (what most would call "tabled") until Dec 7 although there was no indication in the minutes of any amendments being made, which would have been a good reason for giving citizens another chance to review and comment at the next Work Session.


Since the subject of the Bill was changed at the final legislative session (changes to RO zone) it is an illegal Bill. (Underlining indicates amendment made during final legislative session.)

Further, note that the Bill passed on Dec 7 and it states "shall take effect on Nov 30" and contains this "legislative detail" at the end, so this cannot be claimed to be an "honest" mistake:

Really sloppy legislative process!

Return to Special Laws Issues Page

Updated 4 Nov 2021 by MAP