We're in the midst of the 2016 Comprehensive Zoning Map Process (CZMP). More than 500 properties have been proposed for rezoning. We want to ensure that these rezonings do not result in:
We've created a simple tool you can use to determine if a rezoning request will cause any of these impacts. The tool is an easy to use spreadsheet posted at: ceds.org/bcp/czmpanalysis.xlsx
We also drafted a publication showing how easy it is to use the spreadsheet. This publication also explains why our schools are overcrowded, the traffic congestion problem and what's polluting our neighborhood waters. More importantly, the publication suggests how to word written or spoken testimony to the County Council at their June 2016 hearings to explain why these impacts are so devastating.
Finally, we've spelled out the changes needed to enhance our quality of life. We hope you will urge the County Council to support each. The publication can be downloaded by clicking the following title: Assessing School, Traffic & Environmental Effects of Rezoning Requests.
The following table illustrates the data provided by the Summary of Impacts spreadsheet. It compares the effect of developing a property under existing zoning to that requested by the petitioner. The example Summary of Impacts shows seven hypothetical rezoning issues in the fictional 8th District. To see a larger version just click on the spreadsheet.
CEDS recently completed a detailed analysis of school overcrowding in Maryland's 23 counties: How Successful Are Maryland Counties In Preventing School Overcrowding. Of Maryland’s 23 counties, Baltimore County has the second highest number of schools over capacity - 78 out of 156 schools. Through the analysis CEDS also identified specific steps the Baltimore County Executive, County Council and Board of Education can take to prevent and reverse overcrowding.
Though education quality does not necessarily suffer at an over-capacity school, overcrowding does make it more challenging. Growth is not the only cause of school overcrowding, but it is one of the more controllable variables. In fact, Baltimore County has had an Adequate Public Facilities law since 1979 that should have prevented the disturbingly high number of overcrowded schools. But several very large loopholes have rendered this law ineffective. Patches for these loopholes are recommended below.
The Summary of Impacts table will show you whether a rezoning will increase or decrease the number of students added to your local schools when the subject property is developed under the requested zoning. If rezoning will: 1) cause an increase, and 2) the property is served by a school which is overcapacity, and 3) an expansion of capacity is not imminent, then the rezoning request will likely aggravate the overcrowding problem. Approval of the request must be postponed until sufficient excess capacity is available. The 78 overcrowded schools are listed in Table 8, of: Assessing Neighborhood & Environmental Effects of Rezoning Requests.
In the example Summary of Impacts above Issue 8-003 and 8-042 decreases the number of students generated. Issues 8-002, 8-015 and 8-016 increases the number of students added to local schools.
The Baltimore area is 25th out of 101 areas nationwide with regard to traffic congestion. Each year this delay costs each of us an average of 45 hours and $1,115 in wasted gas. Of Maryland’s 23 counties, Baltimore County has the second highest traffic fatality rate. As main roads become increasingly congested commuters begin looking for alternate routes. Frequently the only alternate is a neighborhood street where the combination of increased traffic volume and drivers in a hurry make for a very dangerous mix.
As with schools, the Baltimore County Adequate Public Facilities law was supposed to prohibit development that would add traffic to our most congested roads. There are several problems with the law that reduce effectiveness. So, if rezoning would: 1) cause an increase in traffic volume, and 2) the property is served by roads which are already overcapacity, and 3) an expansion of capacity is not imminent, then you should consider testifying against the request. There are 57 overcrowded intersections and road segments in Baltimore County, which are listed in Table 12, of: Assessing Neighborhood & Environmental Effects of Rezoning Requests.
In the example Summary of Impacts above, Issues 8-001 to 8-005, 8-015 and 8-016 increase amount of traffic added to area roads, while the other two result in a decrease if traffic.
Baltimore County has more than a thousand miles of streams and rivers as well as 200 miles of tidal shoreline. Most homes are within a five-minute walk of some portion of these waters, usually a small stream. And its amazing how even the smallest waterway attracts neighborhood children, like the Timonium stream pictured below.
Yet the neighborhood waters closest to 90% of all Baltimore County homes are too polluted to serve as a safe place for our children to play. All parents know we can't keep our kids from playing in these neighborhood waters, which leaves but one option: halt the pollution and restore the waters.
Most of the pollution washes off of rooftops, streets, parking lots and other impervious surfaces with each rainfall. Baltimore County has more impervious surfaces than any other Maryland county and Baltimore City. While there are four major Baltimore County programs which could get us the benefits of growth without any harm to neighborhood waters, all four are only partially effective. These programs are:
In the Summary of Impacts table you will learn whether a rezoning will increase or decrease the impervious area created if the subject property were to be developed under the requested zoning. An increase in impervious area will likely cause further degradation of nearby neighborhood waters. Issues 8-002, 8-015 and 8-016 result in an increase in impervious area. Issues 8-002 and 8-042 reduce impervious area.
Suggestions for winning the adoption of a beneficial rezoning and defeating those with unacceptable impacts is provided in Assessing Neighborhood & Environmental Effects of Rezoning Requests, along with examples of testimony.
You will also find a detailed description of:
If you testify regarding a rezoning request then please urge the County Council to support the following measures so we can reap the benefits of growth with far fewer growing pains. Further detail on each of these measures is provided in Assessing Neighborhood & Environmental Effects of Rezoning Requests.
To Restore Neighborhood Waters To A Child Safe & Friendly Condition...
To Reduce Current School Overcrowding & Prevent Future Recurrences...
To Keep Current Traffic Congestion from Getting Worse...
Of the 516 issues which make up the 2016 Comprehensive Zoning Map Process (CZMP), a third would downzone 4,653 acres to Neighborhood Commons (NC). Once the NC district is applied to a property it's pretty much protected from development, which in turn helps a bit with Baltimore County's severe problems with school overcrowding, traffic congestion and stormwater pollution. NC zoning also secures open spaces, though it does not allow public access without the owner's permission.
The once-every four-year CZMP allows anyone to petition the County Council to rezone any property, including the seven members of the County Council members. Each member is elected by and represents one of the seven districts shown to the left.
The graph below shows that County Council member David Marks has proposed more acres (and numbers) of NC rezonings than any other Council member. He is followed by Council member Wade Kach. Council members Almond and Jones have not proposed any rezonings to NC.
The County's excellent publication A Citizen's Guide To Zoning describes the intent of the Neighborhood Commons district as to:
Promote more livable communities through the preservation of land for community parks, gardens and natural areas. It is intended that the NC District be applied only to open space parcels in established neighborhoods, and that residential, commercial, or industrial development not be permitted on tracts with the NC District designation.
The NC District can only be applied to properties within the Urban Rural Demarcation Line (URDL). New structures on NC lands can be no more than 1,000 square feet in area, though larger structures are permitted with a special exception.
The following table shows that properties proposed for NC rezoning average 23 acres with a range of 0.1- to 399-acres. To see the CZMP Issues that would rezone properties to Neighborhood Commons click: NC Excel File.
Richard Klein, of Community & Environmental Defense Services, is acting as the volunteer coordinator for this effort. You can contact Richard at: