The Baltimore County Council was expected to approve a bill Tuesday night that would speed up the development process in downtown Towson.
Councilman David Marks sponsored the legislation to allow the director of permits to expedite the review process for signage and parking approvals for proposed developments in downtown Towson, where there’s a been a development boom in recent years.
“Governments around the country use different tools to foster economic development. They sometimes give out grants, or loans, and in many cases they try to expedite approvals, and the area where Towson Row and other businesses are going to be built is, I think, a very important area for growth in Towson,” Marks said.
He said he intends to amend the bill to clarify that any decision made by the director of permits can be appealed and to add language that would place limits on parking and signage in the area. The bill, as currently drafted, would allow for the permits director to exempt a project from any regulation on parking or the height, area or bulk of a sign.
“We’ve had incidents around the country where variances for signs can slow a project down by as much as one or two years. I think in terms of massing of a project, or signage, or parking, these are areas where I think you can have a bit of an expedited review. We’re not impacting environmental laws, historic preservation laws, bicycle or transit laws,” Marks said. “We’re only really looking at the signage, parking and massing of buildings.”
The legislation would impose a height restriction of 110 feet on any projects located within 100 feet of the East Towson Community Conservation Area. It also requires that the money from open-space waiver fees for projects in the area be spent on improvements within a two-mile radius of the site.
Marks said he also intends to introduce legislation requiring residential projects in downtown Towson to go before the county’s Design Review Panel. He said the legislation is being introduced at the behest of constituents.
Towson has experienced a spike in development in recent years. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has previously said his ambition for the county seat is to see it mimic the style of development in Bethesda. According to county figures, 2,600 apartments and townhouses have been completed or are in the development pipeline. The downtown area has also attracted nearly $800 million in private investment, the county figures show.