County planning board acts to preserve 'symbol' of Kingsville

January 21, 1991|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

The winding, hilly drive and white fences that lead up to the Langenfelder farmhouse in Kingsville give it a storybook quality reminiscent of farmyards, fresh milk, orchards and apple pie.

That scenic gateway to this northwestern Baltimore County community will remain unspoiled as the result of intensive lobbying by neighborhood residents.

Last week, they won the fight for a county Planning Board resolution prohibiting any homes from being built on sites that would block the view of the 60-year-old farmhouse from Belair Road.

Area residents, who since November have written 500 letters to county officials in support of the building restrictions, say the victory saved an important slice of Americana that defines Kingsville as a rural community.

"There are certain things that identify a community and that people hold dear to their hearts, and that view of that property has always been dear to Kingsville," said Douglas Behr, a member of the Greater Kingsville Civic Association and its rural preservation committee.

"The house has always been a symbol of Kingsville," he said. "It represents Kingsville to almost everyone in this area."

The Planning Board resolution, passed Thursday, means that Longfield Estates Development Corp. will be permitted to build at least 52 houses on the 194-acre property, but will be barred from developing any parcels in front of the three-story, stone farmhouse.

Wallace S. Lippincott Jr., the county community planner handling the issue, said boundaries for individual lots that make up the 194-acre parcel may be redrawn so that more than 52 homes can constructed behind the farmhouse.

He said his office will work with the developer to draw up the lot boundaries in the best way possible to maximize their development potential.

Robert J. Ryan, an attorney for Longfield Estates Development Corp., declined to discuss the issue with The Sun.

But he said in a letter to the planning board that as a compromise, the proposal was scaled back and six homesites were eliminated to accommodate residents' concerns. He added that the county seemed to decide based on the emotions and feelings of residents rather than on established standards for development.

"The county seems to be intent on imposing unwritten, unrecognized standards to restrict the use of the property for homesites based upon some vague concept of scenic views," Mr. Ryan wrote in the letter of Dec. 26, 1990.

"Visual character, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder," he also wrote.

But community leaders last week praised the county's decision.

"We feel that it's a fair compromise. It allows the developer to build, but not at the expense of permanently damaging the community," said Robin Beers, another member of the community association's rural preservation committee.

Mr. Lippincott said the 500 letters mailed to David Fields, the county planning director, was "probably the most letters the office has ever received on any one issue."

Plans for Longfield Estates, submitted in May 1990, had called for building 61 homes on the farm of Anne S. Langenfelder, Mr. Lippincott said. The development was to be built in two phases, with 24 homes in the first phase and 37 in the second.

As a part of the proposal, 21 acres of stream valleys and wetlands are to be dedicated to the county as open space, according to a report prepared by Mr. Fields.

Plans for the first phase were approved last May. But a decision on Phase II was postponed after community leaders argued that building homes in front of the farmhouse would conflict with the county master plan, which requires that development in rural communities be consistent with surrounding neighborhoods.

"We're saying that it wasn't in character, that it would destroy the rural feeling of Kingsville," said Ms. Beers.

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