Councilman David Marks has introduced Bill 41-16 to create a new zoning overlay for Downtown Towson. The Green Towson Alliance is working with the councilman to support and improve the bill. The Greater Towson Committee commented on the zoning overlay the the May 18th edition of Towson Times. Our letter of response is below. Please let your elected officials know what vision you support for further development in Towson.
We write in response to the Greater Towson Committee (GTC) letter to the editor, “Avoiding piecemeal zoning in Towson’s downtown.” The GTC presents a confusing position. They say they want to “promote planning efforts designed to strengthen compatible mixed-use, walkable development” but at the same time they OPPOSE the design principles and requirements necessary. The GTC states “The whole point of creating the DT (Downtown Towson) District is to do away with rigid setback and height restrictions.” Perhaps this is a goal for the GTC’s consortium of developers, but it is not for the citizens of Towson.
The goal of the proposed zoning changes is to modernize zoning in accordance with best practices for urban development in order to create a vibrant, livable city center that people will come to and support. This means that building heights will transition between the 2-3 story homes in neighborhoods and the multi-story towers of downtown. Sidewalks will be wide enough to accommodate pedestrians, shade trees, and benches and sidewalk cafes. People will not feel dwarfed by tall, sheer building facades. Public plazas and green pocket parks will welcome people to walk and socialize in our downtown.
This livable, walkable vision cannot be achieved without design requirements for building heights, setbacks, open space, trees and so on. Such design requirements have been used successfully in other growing urban areas and have not changed since the Walkable Towson Charrette in 2007 and resulting Towson Business Core Design Principles.
Councilman Marks invited stakeholders including the Green Towson Alliance and the GTC to collaborate on the zoning legislation. The Green Towson Alliance shared our specific written recommendations with all parties. We are disappointed that the GTC chose the “Letter to the Editor” as the only means of providing their input on the legislation to date.
We ask all citizens to support the proposed zoning changes which will benefit all interests in Downtown Towson. Creating a city center that attracts the public is crucial for Towson’s vibrancy and commercial success.
Elizabeth Miller, B.Arch., MD State Licensed Architect,
and Carol Newill, M.D., Ph.D.
for the Green Towson Alliance