Community Issues

Special Laws

The Maryland Constitution, in the process of prohibiting them in Section 33, defines a "Special Law" as one that benefits a single person or land owner. The Baltimore County Council has repeatedly passed such bills, clearly intended to benefit one property, sometimes even saying so in newspaper articles, but often not even revealing to citizens whom the bill is intended to benefit. When called on this bad practice, they have argued that the bill, as worded, actually affects multiple properties, as if that technically makes it not "special" and thus okay. They rarely consider the unintended consequences on other properties, since they never ask the Planning Department to identify all such properties, and never ask the Planning Board to provide a recommendation on whether or not the legislation is appropriate.

It should also be noted that these bills often have a shortened effective date, which certainly should only be allowed in the case that the Council decides that something is an "emergency". None of the Council minutes for the past years indicate that any of the following were "emergency". The County Charter states in Section 308(f) that "the term 'emergency measure' shall not include any measure ... granting any franchise or special privilege, or creating any vested right or interest". It sure seems that this prohibits all of the cases described below with shortened effective dates.

While the every-4-year CZMP provides extensive time and opportunities for the public to review and comment on each Issue, with multiple hearings before both the Planning Board and the Council before the Council members are expected to make a decision, the process of considering, reviewing, and commenting on these "Special laws" is within the existing usual 28-day period between introduction and vote, with one public hearing (Work Session), with the public often kept in the dark about the true intent of the bill, although every one of these bills is, in fact, upzoning in that it allows some use that was not previously allowed in some zone. Thus, for example, Bill 19-14 explained below was effectively an upzoning of 140,000 acres of RC2.

There are many hints that a zoning Bill is a "special law" intended to benefit a single property, and was not studied to generally apply across the County. Some examples from the following list of Bills are:

  • For a very specific use - "candy store".
  • A specific irrelevant combination of zones - "part BM-IM and part BL-AS".
  • A strange criteria - "on DR3.5 adjacent to RO", when the subject use is not even allowed in RO.
  • Odd criteria like "greater than 7 acres".
  • Based on an improper criteria - "contains a building on the Maryland Historic Trust Inventory".
  • Effective date less than the "normal" 45 days, implying an "emergency".
  • Retroactive.
  • Not being first considered by the Planning Board for comments and a potential hearing.

The following is an identification of bills that fits in this category, going back to the beginning of many of the current Council members' time in office, with comments regarding the problem and an identification of which property or business was intended as the recipient of the benefit, where it is known. If anyone knows of the beneficiary to any of these, I would like to hear about it. (Part of the problem is that there is no requirement for the Council member to reveal who the intended beneficiary is, except for a sense of decency and fair play).

Note: This list is not to say that every bill resulted in a bad outcome - in fact, in many, the Council members sought a desirable result supported by citizens. The point here is that the process was wrong. For most, there are better methods of achieving the result - usually through changing the zoning via CZMP or leaving the decision to the Administrative Law Judge as previously required. When these are not appropriate, the issue should be raised for the Planning Department (and Planning Board) to study and provide a recommendation.

The following also identifies political contributions made by those who benefitted from the Bill, suggesting that they are rewarding the Council members for their actions. Although these are themselves not illegal, they do raise a question of ethics.


Bill 76-02, Raven's Training Camp

I am including this older Bill because it was so significant and obvious as a "special law" and is continuing to have ramifications. The Bill had an allowance for "practice, training, or physical conditioning facilities and fields for amateur or professional sports organizations" in RC5, although it was simply intended to allow the Ravens to build their facility (outside the URDL). It is interesting that the Bill included several restrictions:

  • Accommodations for public spectators may not be provided
  • May not sell admission to the events
  • Must be located on publicly owned land

So the facility was built on a 33-acre property owned by the County since 1997. Wonder if they are paying a fair lease and whether the legal requirements to publish the lease arrangements and allow competitive bidding for it occurred.

Now, the Ravens are buying some adjacent RC4-zoned land so that they can expand their parking for "1,200 fans" and it appears that no one in the County cares about protecting this RC land or requiring compliance with the BCZR (as modified in 2002).

Incidentally, this is land that the County purchased in 1997, at which time it contained a deed restriction that it "may not be converted from outdoor/indoor public recreation and/or open space use without written approval from DNR and ... only after Baltimore County replaces the land with land of at least equivalent area ..." - standard text for land bought using "open space" funds. What land replaced this 33 acres that was taken from the public?


Bill 16-07, Planned Unit Developments

Sponsor: Bartenfelder
Benefitted: Galloway Creek PUD

Allows a general development PUD to be outside the Urban Rural Demarcation Line only in BMM or BMB in Bowleys Quarters Growth Management Area.

Passed March 5, 2007; effective March 16

This was to benefit the planned PUD at Galloway Creek, which the community spent years and lots of money fighting. Following a hearing, the order made note of this Bill, but correctly denied the development on a technicality - part of the planned PUD was outside of the BMB zone - as well as being contrary to the Master Plan. Many appeals followed and it was eventually approved. This Bill, from before the present Council, is included here since it was one of the most egregious case of a "Special Law" in the recent history of Baltimore County and one of the worst "rapes" of a local community.

(In typical fashion, although the legislation added a reference to "Bowleys Quarters Growth Management Area" to the BCZR, a search of the county website yields no match on that term, as if it does not exist. This effectively makes the legislation deficient, since all information must be posted online.)


Bill 48-11, Farmer's Roadside Stand

Sponsors: Huff, Bevins
Benefitted: Springfield Farms

Allows a "Farmer's Roadside Stand" to be the whole "barn" (a 3-story one in this case).

This was intended to preempt the ongoing legal action against Springfield Farms' use of their barn for what was an exceptionally large commercial operation, hardly what anyone envisioned as a "roadside stand" when the regulations were first enacted.

More info


Bill 49-11, Accessory Apartments

Sponsors: Olszewski, Oliver, Bevins
Benefitted: 1109 Justa Ln

Allows accessory apartments within principal, residential building or in a separate building on same lot.

This bill goes against decades of policy in the County to prohibit additional residences on a single lot. While it requires that the extra apartment be occupied by relatives without compensation, that is virtually impossible to regulate. An attempt to limit the allowance to relatives that required care was rejected.

This bill was intended to benefit the property at 1109 Justa Ln to override a court decision against just such an apartment. That property wasn't even within the Districts of any of the three sponsors.

More info


Bill 60-11, Restaurants and Taverns in BLR Zones

Sponsors: Almond, Oliver
Benefitted: Valley Inn

Allows certain restaurant and tavern use outdoors in BLR if:

  • inside URDL
  • on Landmarks list
  • outdoor activities must end by midnight, except for outdoor dining and bar service (what does that leave as allowed?)
  • and outdoor activities allowed on adjacent DR if part of same parcel and not more than 15% of total parcel area

(It is unclear from the wording whether the outdoor uses on the adjacent DR portion must end by midnight, but it should be presumed to be intended to mean that.)

This bill was intended to benefit the Valley Inn at 10501 Falls Rd (in the 2nd District).

More info


Bill 68-11, New Churches in BR

Sponsors: Oliver, Huff, Almond
Benefitted: Christian Life Church

Removes some of the Residential Transition Area (RTA) requirements for churches on a parcel that is part DR and part BR where building is entirely in the BR part. Also reduces restrictions for a church on BR located no closer to 150 ft from the RC zone (had been 750 ft).

This Bill was to benefit the Christian Life Church, 4120 Deer Park Rd (also 6605 Liberty Rd). The planned church was to be on the BR portion. Only a very small sliver of the parcel is DR3.5 due to inaccuracies in the zoning map. The parcel is adjacent to RC5, with the planned building being 250 ft from the RC5. The previous 750 ft limit would have caused restrictions on the building, such as a 35ft height limit. The Bill interrupted the ongoing "legal" battle.

More info


Bill 71-11, Condominiums

Sponsor: Bevins
Benefitted: Waters Landing PUD, 21221

Provides exceptions to bulk regulations for certain condo projects in DR within Chesapeake Bay Critical Area.

Weakening of any restrictions in the Critical Area is a pretty good indication that this is being done to benefit one developer, to the detriment of the environment.

More info


Bill 18-12, Service Garages (in ML)

Sponsor: Quirk
Benefitted: ?

Allows Truck service garages in ML by right and other service garages by Special Exception.


Bill 47-12, Signs

Sponsor: Huff
Benefitted: ?

Allows a new category of enterprise sign - a wall-mounted or canopy on a 2-story multi-tenant building with minimum of 50,000 sq ft of floor area in MR, MLR, ML, MH, or OT.

This Bill was faulty since the "category" - enterprise, wall-mounted or canopy, multi-tenant - was already defined, with one size-limited sign for each occupant, regardless of the building size. It appears that the purpose of this Bill was to allow, in addition to the already-allowed one per tenant on the first floor by their entrance, an additional sign above the first floor, for example, to identify the building. But it fails to set a limit on the number of signs - literally allowing any number, each being "two times the length of the wall". And it does not limit the height, so one could be on the top of a 20 story building.

Passed August 6, 2012; effective August 20


Bill 61-12, Amateur Athletic Associations

Sponsor: County Exec
Benefitted: ?

Allows amateur athletic association (non-profit) in ML, including offices, classrooms, indoor fields, facilities for spectators, etc.


Bill 68-12, Out-of-water Storage Facilities

Sponsor: Bevins
Benefitted: Sunset Harbor Marina and Tradwinds Marina

Allows storage of water craft trailers, eliminates limit of 3 levels for out-of-water storage. This was apparently to benefit the Sunset Harbor Marina and the Tradewinds Marina. Their owners "appeared" to speak at the Council legislative session, which is highly unusual.

Introduced October 1, 2012; passed November 5; effective 45 days

October 3, 2012, Tradewinds Marina made $250 donation to Bevins' campaign fund


Bill 76-12, MH Zones

Sponsor: Bevins
Benefitted: Martin State property developers

Allows BM uses in MH, if

This bill was to overcome the challenge to the CZMP 2012 change in zoning from ML to BM for the Martin plant property in case it was defeated in the referendum in 2014. It is unknown if the wording of the bill would result in it being applicable to any other property. Probably not.

Note: The reference to "MHT Inventory" is improper. The previous Council had passed Bill 26-07 upon request of MHT to remove a previous provision in the County Code which used this MHT Inventory in a similar regulatory manner.

Passed December 17, 2012; effective December 31.


Bill 79-12, Residential Development in CT Districts

Sponsor: Huff
Benefitted: Hunt Valley Mall developers

Allows residential in BM CT District of Hunt Valley on first floor. Intended to allow the new condo/apartments at the old Hunt Valley Mall property.

Passed January 22, 2013; effective February 4.


Bill 61-12, Parking for athletic clubs and spas

Sponsor: Marks
Benefitted: ?

Reduces parking requirements in Towson for athletic clubs and spas from 10 spaces per 1000 sq ft of floor space to 3 spaces, presumably based on there being plenty of other parking in Towson, and that many clients are students who walk.


Bill 4-13, Permitted Uses in BL

Sponsor: Quirk
Benefitted: Jama Coca Candy Store

Allows candy store in BL to sell goods made on site by Internet sales. It was written up in the paper who this was for. The condition was that they had to have a retail part, but even this was a sham - they were only required to be opened limited hours or by appointment for retail sales, that is, not a real storefront. See Balt Sun article.

This case may have identified an issue which needs to be addressed - allowing limited Internet sales by regular retail businesses - so it should be studied to come up with a comprehensive change that is not limited to "candy stores" and that properly limits Internet sales vs on-site sales.

An October 14, 2013 article in Balt Sun notes that 6 months after moving in, the retail portion was finally open. So, for 6 months they "concentrated on selling online and bulk sales" in violation of the Code established in this Bill.

Well, that didn't last long! Here is a Balt Sun article of January 5, 2015 of a Sorrento cafe opening in this space, noting that it had been empty for 7 months. meaning that the actual candy store was in operation less than 8 months.

And see Bill 19-15 for an ironic follow-up on this property.

Passed February 19, 2013; effective March 1 (another "emergency"?).


Bill 5-13, MD 43 Overlay District

Sponsor: County Exec
Benefitted: ?

Allows residential uses in MD43 District on a tract at least 800 acres. Allows "waiver of any applicable laws or regulations." Sounds pretty broad.

Passed February 19; effective March 4


Bill 21-13, Theaters

Sponsor: Almond
Benefitted: Pikes Theater

Allows a theater, by right, if:

  • in commercial revitalization district
  • if there ever was a theater on the site

Intended for Pikes Theater, which allowed them to skip the previously required Special Exception procedure - which always has the possibility of opposition and an appeal.

I suggested that it at least be changed to say "in a building which was previously a theater", so that someone could not dig up the fact that a theater on the property burned down in 1880, so now they don't have to get a special exception to build a new one. The purpose of a Special Exception hearing is mostly to consider parking and traffic concerns - unknown in 1880. My suggestion was not taken.

Note: The Pikes Theater has now closed. Maybe it failed due to the lack of sufficient parking?


Bill 36-13, Parking in Commercial Revitalization Districts

Sponsor: Quirk
Benefitted: ?

Allows commercial parking on Residential land in Revitalization District "if there is an existing parking facility". It is completely unknown what this means - a gravel parking lot? It also eliminates the RTA requirements for such a parking lot. In addition, at the legislative session, an amendment was made to add another provision to a different part of the BCZR to allow the Director of PAI to reduce the required number of spaces in certain cases - which had nothing to do with the original bill (other than being about "parking"), thus was an improper and illegal amendment.

Passed June 3, 2013; effective June 14.


Bill 41-13, MLR Zones

Sponsors: Huff & Olszewski
Benefitted: ?

Allows schools, including business or trade schools, in MLR.

Passed August 5, 2013; effective August 19.


Bill 50-13, RO Zones

Sponsor: Huff
Benefitted: Amanda's Pet Grooming

Allows dog grooming in RO. I was told by a friend that his animal care person had told him that Huff was going to "fix it for her" so she could continue her business in a new place. It was at this work session, after I made some comment comparing dog grooming with women's hair-dressers, that Huff made a comment about "bitches".

This was later identified as being 2341 York Rd in a Special Exception hearing in Case 2014-0144 which also asked for additional variances including no landscaping due to "financial hardship". What a scam!

(A few months later, this "friend" beat Huff 2-to-1 in the primary.)


Bill 69-13, AS Overlay Districts

Sponsor: Huff

Withdrawn, see Bill 2-14.


Resolution 86-14, Creates Cowenton-Ebenezer Commercial Revitalization District

Sponsor: Marks

More info


Bill 2-14, AS Overlay Districts

Sponsor: Huff
Benefitted: Bill Kidd Volvo

Allows BM use (auto dealer, for example) on the BL portion of parcel if parcel is part BM-IM and part BL-AS.

Huff had previously introduced Bill 69-13, but the description was slightly broader, so could have applied to maybe a dozen properties around the County. He withdrew it, likely at the urging of other Council members. When the second bill was introduced, I identified it as applying only to the single property where the Hunt Valley Car Wash sits at 10630 York Rd in Old Cockeysville, although Huff refused to confirm this in the Work Session when asked.

As was later revealed, this Bill was to allow Bill Kidd Volvo to change this property to an auto sales lot.

See Bill 17-15 for the follow-up. Also, Kach rezoned this "sliver" out of existence in CZMP. It remains to be seen whether this settles the case.

More info


Bill 19-14, Community Care Center

Sponsor: Huff
Benefitted: Penn Mar, Maryland Line

Increased occupancy at community care facility above the existing limit of 75 persons for site of at least 2 acres outside the URDL in RC2. It was for a specific facility at Maryland Line. The proper process would have been to change the zoning in CZMP from RC2 to an appropriate business zoning.

In 2009, a broad-based, citizen committee recommended that this very limit of 75 person be reduced in RC2. It is absolutely ridiculous to allow even the previously allowed 75 people at a facility served by well and septic on this 4.9 acre parcel! Can you imagine one on 2 acres?


Bill 22-14, ML Zone Use

Sponsor: Olszewski
Benefitted: ?

Allows service garage in ML IM.

Passed May 22, 2014; effective June 4


Bill 37-14, Landmarks Listing

Sponsor: Huff
Benefitted: Obrecht Family Trust

This Bill established a "historic environmental setting" around a building that had already been placed on the Landmarks list back in 2006. This would be a normal, un-suspicious action, except that this bill was not only effective in less than the normal 45 days, but was "retroactive to April 9, 2006" which is when the building had been placed on the landmarks list.

A further hint that something was afoot came when Huff was asked by the Chairperson in the Work Session who owned the property, and Huff refused to answer, saying "it's in there", referring to the notes that were provided to each member. It was not "in there". "Obrecht" was well known to Huff following the upzoning of land for them in 2012, in spite of serious citizen opposition.

Passed: June 2, 2014; effective June 13


Bill 38-14, ML Zone Use

Sponsor: Almond
Benefitted: ?

Allows flower shop (retail) in ML.

Passed June 2, 2014; effective June 16.


Bill 42-14, Signs

Sponsor: Bevins
Benefitted: Williamsburg Inn (now Parker's)

Allows a sign to remain if erected prior to 1960 along a numbered US highway. (Marks got US1 excluded.)

This was introduced to preempt an ongoing legal battle. I had won at the variance hearing with the judge deciding that one of the existing signs should be removed. It was appealed, and then delayed. After the bill was passed, the appeal was withdrawn as moot, and they got to keep the sign (without even having to prove that it qualified under the new law).

More info


Bill 63-14, Commercial Recreation Enterprises (in MH)

Sponsor: Olszewski
Benefitted: ?

Allows commercial recreation enterprise in MH "by right".

The Bill is technically faulty, since it states that it allows "others which, in the judgment of the Zoning Commissioner, are similar ..." This makes the "other" uses" by Special Exception, since this is the only process by which the Zoning Commissioner is asked to pass judgment.

Passed November 3, 2014; effective November 13.


Resolution 5-15, Pikesville Commercial Revitalization District

Sponsor: Almond
Benefitted: Daniel Ratner of Rockville, MD, owner of 2 parking lots near 401 Reisterstown Rd.

Normally, Resolutions have no impact on zoning or allowable uses; however, in this case, it did. Prior legislation (Bill 36-13) had resulted in an additional commercial parking allowance on residential-zoned property in a Commercial Revitalization District. When this Resolution 5-15 increased the area of the Pikesville District, it added two residentially-zoned parking lots which had been the subject of a 2014 zoning case in which the judge denied the request for a grocery store based on their planned improper use of these lots. This resolution, when coupled with the previous Bill 36-13 had the effect of "upzoning" these 2 lots so that the next zoning case with the same situation would not be denied. (CZMP Issue 2-025 later upzoned these to BL AS to allow a gas station, probably a Royal Farms.)

More info


Resolution 23-15, Expanding the Arbutus Revitalization Distict

Sponsor: Quirk, Jones

This adds a number of properties to the District.

More info


Resolution 73-15, Expanding Towson Revitalization District

Sponsor: Marks

This adds a single property - the Kenilworth shopping center - to the District. It is unknown how this designation would "spur development".

Introduced September 8, 2015; passed and effective September 21

More info


Bill 6-15, Conservation Burial Ground

Sponsors: Almond, Kach, Marks, Quirk, Jones, Bevins
Benefitted: Rech Mill Burial

Allows Conservation Burial Ground in RC8 by Special Exception.

Balt Sun Article, February 8, 2015

Passed February 17, 2015; effective March 2.
July 20, revised by Bill 50-15

Unfortunately, in spite of all the work, and these bills to allow the owner to go ahead with this wonderful idea to aid conservation, the plan was scuttled by continuing opposition by some people who really didn't seem to understand what was to be done.


Bill 17-15, AS Overlay Districts

Sponsor: Kach

This Bill is included here, since it was, technically, a "Special Law" to apply to a specific property. However, its purpose was to undo the illegal change made in Bill 2-14, not to grant a new additional right. In spite of heavy lobbying by neighbors especially impacted by this matter, and the long-standing practice of "Councilmanic Courtesy" when a Bill impacts a single District, the Council voted down this Bill 3-4 along party lines.

Introduced March 2, 2015; defeated April 6 (Marks and Crandell voted "yes" with Kach)

More info


Bill 19-15, Nanobrewery

Sponsor: Quirk
Benefitted: New Zagross Brewery

Allows "nanobrewery" in BL. (In the Bill's definition, a "nanobrewery" is ridiculously large - 3,000 barrels produced per year, with 500 barrels of that for on-site consumption, which was the state-mandated limit for any "brewery" of any size. That's something like 400+ pints drunk per day on-site, but with no food served! That's a hell of a bar for a Business Local zone!)

This Bill was intended to allow New Zagros Brewing Company in Arbutus. See June 9, 2015 Sun article which says that the first attempt was to put this brewery in the space on East Drive in Arbutus, ironically the same place that the candy store allowed by Bill 4-13 used for a very short time.

This Bill appears to be faulty, since the County Council cannot pass liquor laws. Any brewery would likley be subject to state law, which does not mention "nanobrewery" at this time. It should be up to state law to say whether they may, may not, or must serve food. In fact, the Maryland Assembly just passed SB1172 to raise the state limit of beer sold for on-site consumption. Then a "nanobrewery" could likely argue that they are not limited by this County Code limit (500 barrels) but rather by state law.

According to numerous references, a nanobrewery is considered one that brews single small batches (like 3 barrels) at one time (or maybe up to 20 total barrels brewing at one time). 20 barrels which take about 2 weeks to brew would yield about 520 barrels per year, not 3,000. 3,000 barrels per year would put it into the "microbrewery" category.

Passed April 6, 2015; effective April 20.

Nearly 2 years later, nothing has been done. After the originally intended location fell through, a search for another location apparently failed (how hard can it be to find a vacant place?) The owner has gone back to being a "brewing consultant" for another brewery in Baltimore City (according to his linkdin page).


Bill 25-15, Signs

Sponsor: Almond
Benefitted: Suburban House

Allows a freestanding, joint identification sign in DR accessory to existing multi-tenant building of single lot in Pikesville Commercial Revitalization District. This was intended for the Suburban House property on Reisterstown Rd so they could put up a proper sign and remove the (illegal) ugly "temporary" signs.

Passed April 20, 2015; effective May 4, as if an "emergency", but, now, nearly 2 years later, a new sign has still not been installed and the old crappy ones remain.


Bill 26-15, RC2 Zone Use

Sponsor: Bevins
Benefitted: Lorely Beach Community Association

Allows community building by Special Exception in RC2. This was intended to allow one for a community association on Beach Rd on Bird River.

See Zoning case 2016-0064.

Note that the Zoning case refers to it being a replacement in the same footprint as the existing building, and that statement was added to the Bill on the night of passage.


Bill 27-15, Mobile Homes

Sponsor: Bevins
Benefitted: Probably the trailer park in Kingsville (5th District)

Redefines terms related to residential trailers and trailer parks and mobile home parks and permitting mobile home parks in ML.

This bill is puzzling. Why would anyone spend so much effort to redefine terms (when there are so many other areas of the BCZR that cry out for revision)? Considering how things have been going, I have to suspect that this was written by a lawyer for a mobile home park owner who slipped in some advantages for themselves - most likely the one in Kingsville.

Passed April 20, 2015

More info


Bill 35-15, Scrap Metal Procesing Facility

Sponsor: Quirk
Benefitted: Recovermat Mid Atlantic

Allows a scrap metal processing facility by right in MH if:

  • on lot of 7 acres or greater;
  • at least 1400 ft from any DR zone; and
  • within 500 ft of r/w of federal Interstate highway
or if:
  • on parcel of 1000 acres (only Sparrows Point would qualify)
  • at least 1000 ft from residential zone
    or, by Special Exception if:
  • less than 1000 ft from residential
but prohibited in MD43 overlay.

Introduced April 20, 2015; passed May 21; effective June 1.

This bill was obviously intended for Recovermat Mid Atlantic at 2202 Halethorpe Farms Rd which meets the criteria with 8.6a, 1800 ft from DR5.5, adjacent to I-695 (but only 370ft from RC2 which some do not consider as "residential").

More info


Bill 36-15, Signs, Identification, Wall-mounted

Sponsor: Almond
Benefitted: ? College

Defines a new category of Identification signage for private colleges to allow a wall sign on a stadium, up to 300 sq ft and illuminated. At least it did prohibit changeable copy.

Introduced April 20, 2015, passed May 21, effective June 3


Bill 37-15, Health Care and Surgery Center

Sponsors: Almond, Jones, Quirk
Benefitted: ?

Allows Health care and surgery center in OR-2 and BM by right.

Passed May 21, 2015; effective June 1.


Bill 48-15, Firearm Sales in ML IM

Sponsors: Crandell, Kach, Marks
Benefitted: Probably Freestate Gun Range in Windlass Run Business Park (in Bevins' District)

Allow firearms sales in planned industrial park of at least 25 acres in net area and in ML IM.

Passed July 6, 2015; effective 45 days


Bill 49-15, Parking

Sponsor: Almond
Benefitted: Seasons Grocery

Decreases parking requirements for certain retail uses in the Pikesville Commercial Revitalization District from 5 spaces to 3 for every 1,000 sq ft of floor area. This was intended to benefit the planned Seasons grocery store on Reisterstown Rd which was already being built. It appears that they found out too late that they did not have enough parking. They should have filed for a variance, which is almost always granted anyway.

The building is about 25,000 sq ft and the existing parking lot has about 77 parking spaces, so it looks like the "3" in the Bill was picked especially to fit this property, not because it was determined to be the proper value for this type of store.

Passed July 6, 2015; effective July 20

Contribution, August 6, 2015, $2,000, Zachary Richards, Seasons, to Almond.


Bill 53-15, Regional Outlet Shopping Center

Sponsor: Bevins, Quirk
Benefitted: Outlet Mall developer

Allows Regional Outlet Mall on ML-IM and BL (thus also on BM and BR) if "site" is:

  • at least 45 acre, and
  • adjacent to I-95.

Comment: This retail use was already allowed in BM and BR and is ridiculous in BL ("Local"). It is unknown what "site" means in this case, whether a single "parcel", or multiple contiguous parcels under joint ownership? Thus, this bill is "technically" deficient.

An extensive search of the zoning maps shows that this Bill applies only to the one property on Philadelphia Rd in White Marsh where it had been announced that an outlet mall was planned. At the Council work session and legislative session, Bevins and the other Councilmembers spoke only about this one property (with a passing remark about maybe another mall could be built in Quirk's district). No site can be found in Quirk's district that meets the criteria of this bill. As with Bill 2-14, this makes the bill unconstitutional.

Passed August 3, effective August 17.

Note: Citizens successfully pushed this to a referendum but, because of the shortened "emergency" effective date, that did not stop it from going into effect until the vote in the General election, which failed to overturn it.

Interestingly, it has now been reported in the Balt Sun that the company has backed out of this plan, and the property owners are thinking of selling it for some other use. Now that it has been changed from ML to BM in the CZMP, it is possible that some new planned use (manufacturing) would require another re-zoning (back to ML?), or another "special bill" to allow that new use. Stay tuned!


Bill 64-15, Micro-brewery and Farm Brewery

Sponsor: Kach
Benefitted: Black Locust Farm, 21305 Heathcote Rd zoned RC2 (see zoning Case 2016-0107-XA)
Also benefitted: Heart & Solar Brewery, 21213 York Rd zoned RC5 (see zoning Case 2016-0112-X)
Also may benefit: 2800 Monkton Rd (see zoning Case 2107-0327 (trying to create "brewery" to legitimize illegal wedding receptions)

Allows either:

  • micro-brewery (Class 7) which must be with a standard restaurant and may brew up to 10,000 barrels per year; or
  • farm brewery (Class 8) which must be on at least 10 acres and may brew up to 15,000 barrels per year
in RC2, RC4, RC5, RC6, RC7, and RC8 zones by Special Exception. Also allows "public gatherings", but it is not clear from the wording whether the "public gatherings" require a separate ALJ approval.

This was intended for Black Locust Farm, where the owners have been growing hops for years and now plan to make their own beer. See Balt Sun article

Such an intense use (with public gatherings) would not be appropriate in an RC5 zone, which is "residential", nor in RC4 (watershed protection).

Introduced September 8, 2015; passed October 5; effective 45 days


Bill 68-15, ML Zone Uses (winery)

Sponsor: Kach
Benefitted: Millstone Cellars Cider Mill

Allows a winery in ML. Intended for an expansion/new location for the present Millstone Cellars cider mill on Monkton Rd to a location on Wiseburg Rd, which is ML because it was once a paper mill. See previous zoning Case 2012-0183 which allowed the cider mill at it current location against neighbors' objection.

See February 18, 2016 Sun article about this project and saving the old Glencoe train station.


Bill 69-15, ML Zones (sale of electronics)

Sponsor: Jones
Benefitted: ?

Allows sale of electronic equipment in ML.


Bill 79-15, Basic Service Maps

Sponsor: Quirk
Benefitted: ?

Exempts development in a Commercial Revitalization District from the Basic Service mapping standard, that is, these developments are not stopped by inadequate sewer or water systems or by the fact that they are in the trafficshed of a failing intersection. (There was already a long list of exemptions.)

Originated by request in Resolution 34-14 to Planning Board to study.

Introduced October 5, 2015, passed November 2, effective November 16 and applies to a District established prior to this.

More info


Bill 86-15, MH Zone Use Regulations

Sponsor: Crandell
Benefitted: Tradepoint (Sparrows Point)

Allows a whole set of uses on a 2,500 acre tract under common ownership or control zoned MH. As reported in the Sun, it is "believed that Sparrows Point Terminal is the only property that would be affected" and that, without the bill, they would "have to go through cumbersome processes such as seeking a zoning change in the CZMP or submitting a PUD".

The real kicker in this bill is the final sentence that says that "a plan for development for any portion" will be treated as if it had an "A" exemption. An "A" exemption is normally granted for such trivial things as a dwelling on a single lot, one tenant house on a farm, or a lot line adjustment when the number of lots is not changed and there is no increase in total density. It exempts the development from compliance with Subtitle 2.

Passed December 7, 2015; effective December 21

More info


Resolution 50-16, Loch Raven Commercial Revitalization District

Adds area to the District.

More info


Resolution 67-16, Merritt-Sollers Point Commercial Revitalization District

Creates new District.

More info


Bill 21-16, RO Use

Sponsor: Kach
Benefitted: ?

Internet retail, no walk-in, in RO. (Compare with allowance for same thing in Candy store in Bill 4-13 in BL where "walk-in" possibility was required.)


Bill 53-16, BM zone

Sponsor: Almond
Benefitted: ?

Provides an exception so that the limits defined in Section 235C for a building in BM within 750 ft of an RC Zone do not apply for a lot if:

  • in a CCC District in Bare Hills Village in Ruxton, Riderwood, or Lake Roland area
It had already provided this exception for such a CCC district existing on October 5, 1998.


Bill 76-16, Riding Stables in RC5

Sponsor: Marks
Benefitted: Riding stables in Kingsville

Allows riding stables in RC5 by right if more than 200 ft from residential property line and in existence for at least 15 years. By Special Exception if within 200 ft of residential property line.

This bill is intended to benefit a specific riding stable on Bradshaw Rd a couple blocks from my house. The bill is flawed in several ways:

  1. It refers to distance "from residential property line", although the zone it is being allowed in (RC5) is itself residential. It should say "from an adjoining residentially-zoned parcel".
  2. The "by right" is based on it having been in existence for 15 years, but it provides no mechanism to make this determination. Such things require a public hearing, such as a Special exception.
  3. Note that "Riding Stable", which is what is subject to the 200 ft limit, is defined as "a building where riding horses are boarded or kept for hire". The 200 ft limit does not apply to any outdoor activities. It is unknown how this limit applies to this property, since the major building on the property identified as "commercial" is about 17 ft from an adjacent residential property and 74 ft from another. Again, a public hearing, with a site plan presented, is where this would be resolved.

Note that this Bill did not allow anything that was not already allowed - it just greased the skids by eliminating the Special Exception process for this case, eliminating some expense for the owner, and eliminating the possibility of opposition by neighbors.

The Bill was passed on Nov 21, 2016 and effective 45 days later (January 6).

For the record, let me make it clear that I am not opposed to this business. It is one of the things that makes this "rural" area a good place to live. See local businesses. The present owners/operators have been as asset to the community. In opposing such relaxed provisions, it is often stated that we do not fear the present owners - it is the next one that we do not trust.


Bill 87-16, Convenience Stores

Sponsors: Marks, Quirk, Almond, Jones
Benefitted: Wawa or Royal Farms (or both)

Increases the allowable size of convenience stores, by right, from 1,500 to 6,000 sq ft, reduces setback of gas pumps from residential, allows carry out restaurant in certain cases. This is obviously to benefit a large chain of gas stations, most likely Royal Farm, which are going up around the County, and to eliminate some of the basis for citizen opposition.

Introduced November 21, 2016; passed December 19, effective 45 days

For example, see Zoning cases:

  • 2014-0131-SPHXA (Royal Farms, 118 Mount Carmel Rd) Special Exception for sales area greater than 1,500 sq ft, order 29 Jan 2014, still being fought by residents - some of the provisions of this Bill weaken their arguments (In Kach's District).
  • 2017-0126-XA (Carroll Fuel, 6207 N Charles), larger than 1,500 sq ft, filed 1 Nov 2016, held 28 Dec, granted 30 Dec, but Order is not yet posted online (Marks' District)
  • 2017-0161 (Royal Farms, 9740 Reisterstown Rd), larger than 1,500 sq ft, filed 15 Dec 2016, held 10 Feb 2017, waiting for Order to be posted (Almond's District).
  • 2017-02141-SPHA (Weis at Putty Hill Shopping Center on Belair Rd), which is still asking for another variance from this 100 ft setback. (Mark's District)

Bill 88-16, DR Zone Use (snowball stand)

Sponsor: Marks
Benefitted: Snowball stand on Joppa Rd near Magledt

Allows a snowball stand ("permanent or temporary") in DR5.5 zones if:

  • on property adjacent to RO
  • on property with dual frontage along public roads
  • in existence for at least 25 years prior to this act (Quirk added this, apparently to prevent new ones in his district.)
  • subject to any additional conditions

This bill was intended to allow the continuing operation of an "iconic" snowball stand on Joppa Rd near Magledt. This property has two "frontages" although there is no actual access to and from Magledt, so one could argue that this really does not comply with the Bill.

More info


Bill 97-16, Vehicle sales in ML

Sponsor: Quirk, Kach, Marks, Bevins, Almond
Benefitted: ?

Allows making, servicing, selling vehicles for people with disabilities in ML. (Isn't any car usable by a person with a disability?)

The people of Cockeysville, who have been fighting a car dealer for years, partly on ML, should be worried that this is an under-handed way to sneak in vehicle sales in ML.

Passed January 17, 2017; effective January 30.


Bill 1-17, Used Motor Vehicles (sale in ML)

Sponsor: Bevins

Allows indoor storage of used vehicles for sale in ML, with customer access for "completion of paperwork" for cars previously ordered online. (Implies, but does not state, that customers cannot come in, browse, and buy on the spot. What car salesman would refuse?)

Maybe this is an expansion of what Bill 97-16 allowed to benefit the same car dealer in Cockeysville?

This was withdrawn. Did some other Council member finally see through the charade?


Bill 11-17, Bakery (in BM)

Sponsor: Quirk
Benefitted: ?

Allows a bakery, with a retail operation, in BM by right with no stated limitations. They are already allowed, as they are in BL, with the requirement that goods baked must be sold on the premises, but 30% of area may be used for wholesale operation if in a commercial revitalization district (which was added in Bill 86-09, sponsored by the previous Council member from the 1st District). The impact of this Bill would be to allow it outside of a commercial revitalization district and to get rid of the 30% limit on space used for the wholesale operation. Wonder if this new Bill is intended to benefit the same business as Bill 86-09 did.

Introduced February 21, 2017; passed March 20; effective April 3


Bill 21-17, Medical Cannabis

Sponsor: Almond
Benefitted:

This bill adds ML as one of the zones where a cannabis dispensary is allowed by right, but then disallows one in ML in a Chesapeake Enterprise Zone. (The Code already requires a Special Exception if in a Commercial Revitalization District.)

For reference, the Chesapeake Enterprise Zone is a terribly gerrymandered area shown in Resolution 18-15

Introduced April 17; passed May 25; effective June 7.


Bill 23-17, Zoning - Licensed Arborist

Sponsor: Bevins
Benefitted: Allen and Sons Tree Service, ne corner Harford and Taylor

This Bill allows a "Licensed Arborist" to be in BL. In actuality, what it defines as an "arborist" is a "tree-care" company with all their "vehicles and equipment necessary" to "maintain, plant, trim, or remove trees". That makes it a "contractor's equipment storage yard" which is currently allowed only in BR and SE by Special Exception. The only thing they can't have on the property under this new Bill would be "material", presumably meaning plants or logs.

Just before passage, the Bill was amended so that it would only apply within the Parkville Commercial Revitalization District. Thus, it will not negatively affect business-zoned properties in the rest of the County, so it will only be Parkville that could be trashed when this, or another, business gets out of hand.

Introduced April 17, 2017; passed May 25; to be effective June 7

More info


Bill 31-17, R-O-A Zone

This Bill allows a new building in the East Towson Community Conservation Area on a lot of not less than 8700 sq ft to be used as a Class A Ofice building, whereas, the previous limit was for a building which was occupied as a residence for at least 5 years.

Introduced May 1, 2017; passed June 5, effective June 19


Bill 34-17 - Breweries

Sponsor: Quirk
Benefitted: Diageo - Guinness, 5001 Washington Blvd

Allows Class 5A and 5B Breweries on a tract of land that is:

  • under common ownership (apparently allowing it to be multiple parcels);
  • at least 40 acres;
  • zoned a combination of ML and MH (Class 5B is already allowed in both zones inside the URDL);
  • within 500 ft of r/w of interstate (unknown how to measure this, only matters how far from an entrance/exit); and
  • frontage on state road (no matter what Classification)
Also allows:
  • live music, food service and public catering, festivals, parking;
  • all uses may be inside or outside with no setbacks;
  • an existing parking lot may be striped without meeting other requirements;
  • extra signage, including on roof; and
  • a distillary (which is currently allowed only in MH inside the URDL)

Introduced June 5, 2017; passed July 3; effective July 17, 2017

More info


Bill 44-17 - Cannabis Dispensaries - Location

Sponsor: Marks
Benefitted: Neighbors of planned dispensary on Ridge Rd

Adds a new setback requirement for dispensaries to be 800 ft from any planned school property. The present setback (unchanged by this bill) is 500 ft from an existing school property. Thus, once the school is built, the dispensary would then be allowed, but not before.

This bill is intended to block a dispensary on a small, pocket BL zone in Nottingham

Introduced July 3, 2017; passed ??; effective August 18


Resolution 69-17, Additions to the Pikesville Commercial Revitalization District

Sponsor: Almond
Beneffited: Pomona

This resolution would add about 34 acres of residentially-zoned land to the Commercial Revitalization District. Much of this is currently open space, surrounding a number of residential apartments or condos, and especially including the vacant space on the northwest corner of Riesterstown Rd and Naylors Ln. None of this area is known to require any "revitalization", certainly not "commercial revitalization", although one can presume that the owner would love to fill in that valuable vacant lot on the corner. It is suspected that the whole reason for this action is to exempt future development of this area from the restrictions that might otherwise occur due to deficiencies in Basic Services - water, sewer, and transportion.

Here is a map of the addition.


Comments:

Throughout these bills (as well as the CZMP), there has been a constant theme of getting rid of ML zones in favor of commercial enterprises (retail sales). This is foolhardy for the long-term health of the County. Manufacturing is the only activity that brings money into the area when goods are shipped out. Retail sales do not. When some particular retail sales are allowed in a new area, that just takes away from sales already existing nearby. No jobs are created, they are just moved around. While the level of manufacturing will never return to what it once was (in spite of Trump's statements), the lack of ML-zoned land will be an impediment to any company that even thinks of returning in the future.



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Updated 24 July 2017
Mike Pierce