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Setback for Solo Cup petitioners

One week after a controversial vote by the Baltimore County Council to rezone a 52-acre site in Owings Mills from industrial to commercial to make way for a new shopping center anchored by Wegmans, organizers of a petition drive to try to halt the development have received a setback from the county Board of Elections.

An attempt to gain approval of a petition form to take the decision to referendum in 2014 was rejected last week by the county’s board of elections officials, said Katie Brown, director of the Baltimore County Board of Elections.

Brown said that on Aug. 30, she refused a proposed referendum question because it was not “sufficient” according to board standards.

“They altered the top part of the form, changed some of the wording,” she said. “They changed it to fit their needs. I asked that they not do that, because we like everything to be consistent and uniform.”

The question submitted, which Brown would not reveal, was part of a form needed to begin canvassing for nearly 29,000 signatures within a 45-day deadline period, which began on Aug. 29, the day County Executive Kevin Kamenetz signed the zoning change into law.

“They have an option to resubmit a form to us,” Brown said on Tuesday. “We found it to be not sufficient because of alterations they made to the form. Whether they are going to send another one in, I don’t know.”

Brown said she advised representatives of the group that has opposed rezoning of the former Solo Cup plant site on Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills to use a local referendum petition form posted on the Maryland State Board of Elections site.

The group, the Say No To Solo Coalition, had collected more than 7,000 signatures in a summer-long petition drive that aimed to persuade members of the council to vote against the proposed zoning change.

The effort was part of a bitter community split over the proposed development.

Developer Greenberg Gibbons is seeking to build a $140 million retail and office project at the site, but those plans have been staunchly opposed by David S. Brown Enterprises, owners of the $500 million Metro Centre development now underway about a half-mile away, and Kimco and General Growth Properties, owners of the struggling Owings Mills Mall. The mall’s owners have proposed a $65 million redevelopment.

The council’s vote on Aug. 28 to rezone the Solo Cup property was 6-1 and was taken as an overflow crowd of more than 200 protestors and supporters of the proposed development packed the Towson chambers.

Metro Centre officials declined to comment Tuesday on the petition drive and potential referendum.