Zoning rules for theme park are going to council Final approval for Worldbridge sought from Baltimore County.

April 04, 1991|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Evening sun Staff

Proposed zoning regulations designed to permit Worldbridge, a cultural theme park and trade center planned for 1,000 acres in Middle River, are about to be passed onto the Baltimore County Council for final approval.

P. David Fields, director of the county planning department, said his office would turn in a "minority report" to the planning board today. That report details the opposition of the developer and several community leaders to the legislation, but for different reasons.

The developer is opposed to revised regulations that would:

* Forbid Worldbridge from having a landing pad for helicopters.

* Restrict the flow of traffic into and out of the development.

* Curtail the number of homes than could be built as part of the $1 billion development.

Several community groups totally oppose Worldbridge and the new zoning designation that would allow it.

Chris Delaporte, a former Baltimore parks and recreation director who now works as project manager for Worldbridge, said yesterday his group would try to persuade the council to revise the regulations to permit the helipad, more housing and service roads.

Delaporte could not say when the developer would begin to submit detailed plans of the mammoth project should the regulations pass.

John J. Schmidt, vice president of the Bowleys Quarters Improvement Association and a member of the planning board subcommittee that drafted the new zoning regulations, said public support for Worldbridge has shifted back and forth.

"At some of our meetings, it's been 60 percent for, 40 percent against," he said. "At others, it's 60-40 against."

Part of the hesitancy among eastern Baltimore County residents, Schmidt said, is that the developer, Dean Gitter of New York, has not revealed detailed plans of the project.

"There's no printed documents that you can take back to the community and say, 'This is Worldbridge,' " Schmidt said. "It keeps changing."

Gitter's original concept, Asia USA, called for a trade center and cultural theme park featuring reproductions of such Chinese wonders as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. After the massacre of student protesters in China in 1989, Gitter said the Chinese government would no longer be a part of the project.

At the most recent presentation, a slide show for the planning board subcommittee depicted a two-phase project. A trade and conference center, including at least one hotel, would be built first. A 100-acre theme park and 18-hole golf course with more than 900 luxury homesites would be added later.

The project promises to eventually add 4,000 jobs to the area, the developer said.

After Schmidt and others on the subcommittee objected to the building of so many houses on industrial land, the proposed regulations were changed to limit Worldbridge to 150 home sites and only as part of the golf course.

Building homes on industrial land is prohibited under county zoning laws, mostly because industrial areas don't have the sewers, road and schools to handle such developments.

The new regulations require the developer to submit an "authorization plan," which would have to be approved by both the planning board and the County Council before construction could begin. Public hearings, with at least 45 days' notice, would have to be held by the council and planning board.

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