Council Vote Cuts Loch Hill, Glendale-Glenmont from 5th District in Towson

… Marks says he ‘explored every realistic option,’ but could not make a deal …

By Jon Meoli,

11:00 PM EDT, October 3, 2011

There was one last-minute tweak on Monday night before the Baltimore County Council adopted a new councilmanic map.

But much to the dismay of East Towson residents who have lobbied for months to keep their neighborhoods in the 5th District, Loch Hill and Glendale-Glenmont weren’t involved.

“The loser in this is Towson,” said David Kosak, president of Greater Towson Council of Community Associations. “We’re 100 percent the loser.

“This is a prime example of why Towson needs to have its own district,” Kosak said, “and we need a local person to represent us.”

The 5th District incudes Towson, Loch Raven and Perry Hall. Kosak and other community members had lobbied 5th District Councilman David Marks to reverse the county redistricting commission’s plan to move Loch Hill, Glendale-Glenmont and the Country Club of Maryland to the 6th District, which includes White Marsh and Overlea and Middle River.

Marks, who lives in Perry Hall, said he “explored every realistic option” he could on the neighborhoods’ behalf, but couldn’t make it work.

“If this map was simply about East Towson, I would vote against it,” Marks said before the vote. “But the map is about all the communities in my district and in Baltimore County.”

Every 10 years, the County Council must adopt new boundaries to distribute the county’s population into the seven councilmanic districts, based on the latest census.

According to Marks, there were several reasons why he wasn’t able to change the map proposed by the redistricting panel. Chief among them was the lack of “wiggle room” he had with his district’s population.

“The basic problem is that my district is the largest of all the (council) districts,” Marks said. “It’d be easy to add this back if I had the wiggle room, and I don’t have it.”

And while splitting precincts — creating a new one — would have been the easiest way to keep the neighborhoods in the 5th, the council was dissuaded by a letter from the Board of Elections that said new precincts would cost “between $4,990 and $15,390 depending on the amount of equipment required.”

Some residents had called for switching of other precincts to make the numbers work, but Marks said a last-minute switch would be “unfair for communities who think they’re going to be in this district and suddenly are not.”

“I could have gotten an amendment passed that swapped one precinct for another, but I did not think it was fair to make changes in northern Towson or Loch Raven at the 11th hour,” Marks said.

Still, Kosak was upset Monday because, while the council rejected a Towson deal, it adopted an amendment that switched precinct between the 6th and 7th districts. That was brokered between President John Olszewski Sr. in the 7th District, and Council member Cathy Bevins in the 6th.

“I want (Marks) to tell us why he voted for that, when they wouldn’t [vote for ours],” Kosak said.

Marks said their amendment involved swapping precincts, something he could not do in Towson without affecting other neighborhoods.

The East Towson neighborhoods’ unsuccessful attempt to remain in the 5th District was not for lack of effort. Community associations and the umbrella GTTCA lobbied to find a solution beginning with an Aug. 1 hearing in which Loch Hill residents implored the council to leave them in the 5th.

As for the parts of Towson that remain in Marks’ district, he doesn’t believe that his lack of success and Kosak’s unhappiness with the outcome detract from his work in the area.

“I truly did my best on this,” Marks said. “I am working very hard on getting the addition at Stoneleigh Elementary School, spurring the revitalization of Towson, and countless other projects throughout the Towson area, and I think most people would recognize that I’m doing my very best.”

Melrose Farm not included preservation list

Despite lobbying and letters from members of the Cockeysville community who hoped to see it preserved by the county, Melrose Farm was not included on the Final Landmarks List bill as adopted by the council Monday night.

The property, at 29 Ashland Road, is owned by the Cromwell family, who are descendants of the Cockey family. It was added to the Preliminary Landmarks List last November on the grounds of its connection to the Cockey family and the Civil War, but was removed from the Final Landmarks List last month after the Cromwells fought against their houses’ inclusion.

Becky Gerber, vice president of the Sherwood Hills Improvement Association; Lee Rock of the Ashland Community Association; Patricia Bentz, executive director of the Baltimore County Historical Trust; and Eric Rockel, president of the Greater Timonium Council of Community Associations, all spoke at a Sept. 27 council work session in support of inclusion, and Gerber and Rock also sent letters to the council, but to no avail.

“I think we explained our position well,” Rock said last week.

Ultimately, 3rd District Councilman Todd Huff sided with the homeowners, who asked that it not be listed.

“I’m supporting the landowner,” Huff said. “Also, we as a council didn’t feel there was significant proof to put the house and certain acreage on the list at this time,”

While he may disagree about the lack of evidence, Rock understood that Huff was acting as a proponent of property rights.

“I agree with that,” Rock said. “Right up front, I said that we don’t want to take property rights away because I don’t want that to happen to me.”

However, some believe the council missed a chance to ensure the long-term protection of the house.

“Now is the time to work out a plan for protection of this historically significant property, not 10 years from now when bulldozers are poised to tear down the house and level the hill,” said Gerber in her letter.

Resolution seeks standards on stadium lights

In other business on Monday, the council passed a resolution introduced last month by Marks that asks the county Planning Board to review laws and guidelines regarding stadium lights in the county.

“I think it’s a good resolution that will hopefully lead to a process so that, in the future, both neighborhoods and schools know what is expected from these type of lights,” Marks said Monday.

The need for a clear-cut set of standards came about during ongoing discussions between the Loch Raven Village Community Association and Calvert Hall College High School regarding the school’s installation of lights on its baseball field.

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