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Baltimore County opposition group says more than 86,000 signatures collected

A group opposing two recent zoning decisions in Baltimore County said it has turned in more than 86,000 signatures in an effort to place the zoning maps before county voters in a referendum in November 2014.

Attorney Stuart Kaplow, spokesman for the Committee for Zoning Integrity and the Committee for Zoning Transparency, said Monday that petitions had been turned in to the Baltimore County Board of Elections office late last week.

Elections officials are beginning the process of validating the signatures, an aide in the office said.

“It shows an overwhelming number of people are interested in having an opportunity to vote,” Kaplow said.

If verified, the signatures would be well more than the 75,788 total signatures required by law to place the two zoning maps on the November 2014 ballot. That means the new maps for the 2nd District, which covers parts of Reisterstown and Owings Mills, and the 6th District, which covers Middle River, could be frozen for two years until the matter is resolved by voters.

The referendum efforts stemmed from an Aug. 28 vote by the Baltimore County Council as part of the county’s comprehensive zoning push. The controversy centers on a vote by the council to rezone two properties in different parts of the county: the former Solo Cup manufacturing site in Owings Mills for a $140 million shopping and office complex — to be called Foundry Row — anchored by Wegmans, and an Middle River site near Martin State Airport where Walmart could locate a new SuperCenter.

Both developments could affect other projects nearby — Metro Centre in Owings Mills and a smaller shopping center on the east side that already has a Walmart, opponents say.

Both existing developments are owned by wealthy and politically connected developers: The Metro Centre is owned by Howard Brown, president of David S. Brown Enterprises, and the Middle River development is owned by David S. Cordish, chairman of The Cordish Cos.

Both developers helped pay for the petition drive by hiring out-of-state referendum specialists to canvass countywide for signatures.

Vicki Almond, a county councilwoman who represents the 2nd District, said Monday she was waiting to see how many of the signatures were validated.

“I don’ think it was made clear to most people what they were actually signing,” Almond said. “We’ve had some people call our office and ask how do I get my name off of that. Some people are upset that they signed it.”

Brian Gibbons, developer of the Foundry Row project, could not be reached for comment.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has declined to comment on the bitter feud and the petition drive.