A plan to build 56 new homes on a 15-acre site in Rosedale has been derailed by the Baltimore County Board of Appeals. In a rare move, the board overturned the County Review Group's go-ahead for the project.
The board's decision represents a victory for area residents who have long protested the proposed development.
The disputed parcel, which sits on the northeast corner of McCormick and Chesaco avenues, next to Interstate 95 just east of the city-county line, was once a swampy area crossed by several streams. Earlier this month, the appeals board ruled that construction should not go forward because the soil that was used to fill in the area is so unstable that it makes the review group's approval arbitrary and capricious.
Approvals by the County Review Group carry a legal presumption of correctness and may be reversed only if they are found to be arbitrary or procured by fraud. Between 1985 and 1990, only five of 150 decisions made by the group were reversed by the board, which is the first level of appeal.
The County Review Group has two members, a public works official and a planning official, who must approve every new development.
The developer's attorney, Howard L. Alderman Jr., already has requested a clarification of the board's decision to see whether a Jehovah's Witness church hall, which is proposed for another section of the site and was not actively opposed by the residents, may go forward.
"It [the request] may give them [the board] pause to think about the entire decision," he says.
If not, Mr. Alderman says, he will advise his client, the Pioneer Land Corp., to appeal to Circuit Court. The condition of the soil, he says, is not a proper ground on which to reverse the review group's decision.
This is not the first proposal for the site to have caused a stir. The land has been controversial for at least a decade. Area residents recently protested plans to build three-story buildings for garden apartments on the land.
William J. Burgess, a former member of the House of Delegates who is president of the Greater Rosedale Community Council, has worked to block development on the site for 10 years.
He and other witnesses who testified before the board said that instead of clean dirt as a fill for the swampland, all manner of construction rubble, 55-gallon drums and even old boats were dumped there and then covered by dirt sometimes 45 feet deep.
Mr. Burgess says his group opposes building houses on the site because of fears that they would quickly deteriorate due to the shifting soil, and that the community would be left with a mess.
"That ground should never be built on," he says.