Railroad bed's zoning eyed for more housing Transfer to tract of developer sought

October 13, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

The old Caton and Loudon Railroad hasn't run a train out to Spring Grove State Hospital in Catonsville since the mid-1960s, but the long-abandoned railway may still have one more payload left.

It wouldn't be the coal once hauled along the tracks, but new houses. Zoning along the rail bed is key to a plan by two developers who want to build 83 town houses.

Howard and Robert Chertkof own a 7.4-acre tract at Bloomsbury Avenue and Spring Grove Lane, next to the old German Orphan Home, and claim ownership of the old railroad right of way from Catonsville to the Baltimore line. Robert Chertkof says the rail bed has been in his family since World War II and was used mainly to haul coal from the city to Spring Grove. Zoning on the Chertkofs' 7.4 acres allows them to build about 26 homes. To increase the number of allowable units, the brothers want to incorporate into that tract zoning density from the old railroad right of way, which is connected to their building site. They say zoning along the right of way allows for 111 houses.

Neighbors oppose the zoning density transfer. They say the old rail bed isn't wide enough to actually build even one house and the Chertkofs don't even own the land.

This week, the developers got a boost from the county Board of FTC Appeals, which approved the plan incorporating the right of way's zoning density, but only if the Baltimore County Circuit Court affirms the developers' ownership of the property.

Robert Chertkof says that once the larger parcel is developed he and his brother might donate the rail bed to the county. The county and the state would like to keep the old right of way clear for possible use as a light-rail line.

Aside from the issue of ownership, residents near the Chertkofs' parcel are worried about potential traffic congestion and oppose high-density developments.

Lawrence E. Schmidt, the county zoning commissioner, has ruled that because streets and highways have cut across the rail bed in several places, it wouldn't be fair to let the Chertkofs incorporate zoning density from its entire length. He allowed them to incorporate the section from Catonsville to Interstate 695.

The Board of Appeals voided Mr. Schmidt's ruling. The neighbors have until Nov. 6 to appeal the board's decision to Circuit Court.

If Councilwoman Berchie Lee Manley, R-1st, votes to change the zoning to allow fewer houses, the brothers would have to convince a court that the zoning change came too late. The council will vote on all county zoning changes Thursday.

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