The proposed Greystone golf course and country club, near White Hall in northern Baltimore County, moved a step closer to reality last week when the county appeals board gave the project the go-ahead for a second time.
From the time the idea was proposed, area residents complained that the project, at the intersection of White Hall and Vernon roads, would generate traffic, diminish the quantity and quality of the water supply, take productive agricultural land out of use and disturb the tranquillity of a historic inn at York and Wiseburg roads, a few miles away.
Nonetheless, in August 1990, the County Review Group granted a special exception to the area's rural zoning so the private golf course could be built. It set restrictions, however, to address some of the residents' objections.
But residents were unappeased and appealed. And in March 1991, the Board of Appeals upheld the CRG decision. The protesters then went to Baltimore County Circuit Court to dispute the board's ruling.
Judge Barbara Kerr Howe ordered the Board of Appeals to explain its decision, addressing each of the issues raised by the residents. That resulted in a 30-page report, released at the end of February, in which the board again upheld the special exception.
The report dismissed residents' worries about liquor, crime, and light and noise pollution, saying "the real issues" of health and safety center on water quantity and quality. It cited testimony by a hydrogeologist that seven wells drilled on the site show the project won't deplete residents' water supply. The report also cited soil tests that showed pesticides and other contaminants to be used at the golf course wouldn't enter the water table.
The hydrogeologist and others also said the effect of the golf course on First Mine Branch, a trout stream crossing the site, would be insignificant.
The board's ruling does set restrictions on the project. The quantity and quality of the water in the stream and the wells will be monitored, for example, and the amount of water that can be used by the club during a drought will be limited. The report also said there should be no residential development on the site.
Johanne Edey, who lives next door to the property and is president of the Northeast Baltimore County Protective Association Inc., said the quality and quantity of the water is still the residents' primary concern. The association plans to review the Board of Appeals' opinion, she said, then decide whether to fight it further.
Although the Board of Appeals ruled in the developers' favor, there's still no activity at the site. A few houses, a church and cemetery, and some woods surround a field and a former molasses plant -- marked by a chained-off gateway for "Greystone."
Judge Howe will also review the appeals board's report, but has not yet set a date for a hearing. And Thomas G. Bodie, an attorney for the Blackstrap Development Corp., which owns the property, said the company will ask the judge for a speedy review in hopes of getting some landscaping work done this spring.
The golf course, he said, "will be beneficial" to the surrounding agricultural area. Now, about 3.5 acres of the 305-acre site are zoned for light manufacturing, and until recently, a molasses plant operated there.
Roughly 200 of the 305 acres would be used for an 18-hole golf course, a swimming pool, tennis courts and a club house, Mr. Bodie said -- including the area zoned for light manufacturing. The appeals board's report agreed with the developers' claim that the golf course would remove "an island" of manufacturing from an otherwise rural area.
The developers already have begun to improve the area, Mr. Bodie said. They have removed about 24 above- and below-ground tanks, which were used at the old plant to store gasoline and molasses, from which the developers took the Blackstrap name.
"These tanks were 1 1/2 to three stories high," Mr. Bodie said. "The place was an environmental disaster, and that's what really burns my butt: They've done all this work -- and they're willing to dedicate it for 50 years that it will be nothing but a golf course."