Rezoning Referendum Denied

December 12, 2013
BY Heather Norris

For supporters of the Wegmans-anchored Foundry Row project, good news came late last month when a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge upheld the February decision by the Baltimore County Board of Elections to disregard petitions for a referendum that would challenge local rezoning maps and the upcoming renovations to the former Solo Cup factory site.

Judge Jan Alexander ruled on Nov. 29 that the Board of Elections was correct in its rejection of a 2012 referendum that would have challenged the Comprehensive Rezoning Maps in Districts 2 and 6 by putting the zoning changes on the November 2014 ballot. The Committee for Zoning Transparency Inc. and the Committee for Zoning Integrity Inc. circulated petitions, which collected 31,782 and 28,890 signatures, respectively, enough to meet the county’s standard for considering a referendum earlier this year.

However, the Board of Elections ruled that the petitions, which did not include maps of the changes to the zoning, did not fully inform those who signed them about the issue and, therefore, did not meet the local standard for consideration. The Circuit Court’s decision seconded this opinion.

“Foundry Row is on schedule and moving full-steam ahead,” said Brian Gibbons, chairman and CEO of Greenberg Gibbons and co-developer of Foundry Row in a statement.

Councilwoman Vicki Almond of  District 2, where a referendum could have put the Foundry Row project at risk, said she was pleased with the court’s decision.

“It was a good decision that certainly will benefit many, many people,” Almond said. “The project will bring jobs to Owings Mills.”

She noted that the ruling prevented the setting of a harmful precedent in Baltimore County.

“I really do believe in process, and I think that had it gone the other way, it would have been a real issue for many years to come,” she said. “I don’t think it [the push for the referendum] was done to the letter of the law, and I just think this really wasn’t the will of the people.”

As far as the implications for the Foundry Row site, Almond said the vast majority of the constituents she has spoken with support the development of the block.

“People really want to be able to have shopping options in Owings Mills,” said Almond, calling the project a win-win for the county and the district. “I think this will help really move Owings Mills forward.”

The project, which will include 375,000 square feet of retail space and 60,000 square feet of office space, is projected to bring 2,300 new full- and part-time jobs to the area, according to a Greenberg Gibbons news release.

Nonetheless, it has faced opposition in recent months in the form of challenges to the safety of road improvements in addition to the referendum effort.

“There’s room for everybody here,” said Almond.

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