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Title: Kamenetz Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Urban Rural Demarcation Line that Protects the Environment

County is Nationally Recognized for Effective Growth Management Zoning

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz highlighted the County’s 50 years of success in preserving rural and agricultural lands by directing growth to areas inside the Urban Rural Demarcation Line (URDL), which has held up virtually intact since it was established by the Planning Board in 1967. The URDL, one of the first of its kind in the nation, channels new development in a way that concentrates commercial and residential growth into the existing built environment to protect open space, water quality, agricultural land, scenic views and the natural environment.

“By preserving the integrity of the URDL over the past five decades, we have enhanced the quality of life for everyone in Baltimore County, rather than allowing unchecked suburban sprawl to overtake our rural areas while leaving older communities behind,” Kamenetz said. “We know that preserving forests and rural land is one of the most effective ways to protect our waterways and the drinking water supplies for 1.8 million people in our region.”

A History of Thoughtful Planning and Environmental Preservation

Baltimore County has long been recognized nationally and internationally for its comprehensive land use planning, zoning and preservation programs that preserve open space by guiding development into designated areas within the URDL, resulting in a minimum of costly suburban sprawl and the preservation of environmentally and economically valuable farmland and rural open space.

The URDL benefits existing communities by investing County resources in a cost-effective manner and guiding capital investment into the urban parts of the County and siting costly public amenities like schools, roads, public water and sewer mostly inside the URDL.

In 1965, just prior to the establishment of the URDL, the Valleys Planning Council developed the Plan for the Valleys. That was a precursor to the County’s first Comprehensive Plan in 1975, which identified growth areas in Windlass (now better known as the greater White Marsh area), Mays Chapel, Liberty and Owings Mills. Also in 1975, the County created rural land conservation zoning, designed to protect agriculture and watersheds while allowing some limited growth in rural areas.

“The best outcomes come from collaboration like what took place at the time of the Plan for the Valleys, and we’re still reaping the benefits of that really high-quality planning back when most of the state and country were not thinking about long-range land use planning,” said Teresa Moore, Valleys Planning Council Executive Director.

The URDL set the stage for stabilizing the County’s rural lands and there has been only minimal change to the original demarcation line, even with the open Comprehensive Zoning Map Process (CZMP) every four years. 90 percent of Baltimore County’s population still lives inside the URDL, and two-thirds of its land remains rural. Agriculture is still the largest business land use and Baltimore County is the leading equine county in the state of Maryland. 

“The County Council is ultimately responsible for land use decisions, and my colleagues and I take very seriously our responsibility to be stewards of the land, balancing the need for homes and businesses with critical environmental protections,” said County Council Chair Tom Quirk.

Baltimore County’s first Maryland Environmental Trust land preservation was purchased in 1974, and today, the County is ranked in the top ten jurisdictions nationally in agricultural land preservation with preserved lands and parkland forming a green network that stretches from the Chesapeake Bay to the Piedmont border with Pennsylvania. 


 
 
Revised September 11, 2017