New Coldspring houses are approved Plans worry arboretum groups BALTIMORE CITY

February 12, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

A local developer's plan to resume home building at Coldspring New Town won unanimous approval from Baltimore's Planning Commission yesterday, even though members and friends of the neighboring Cylburn Arboretum expressed some concern about how the city-owned nature center might be affected.

A 102-unit section of residences would be constructed starting this summer on an 18-acre parcel between the current 414-unit Coldspring development and the arboretum. The site is north of Cold Spring Lane and just west of the Jones Falls Expressway.

The Planning Commission approved a pending City Council bill that would allow the project to be constructed as a "Planned Unit Development" within the Coldspring New Town urban renewal area.

The bill must be approved by the full council before construction can begin. The development team includes Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse and Mark Builders.

Plans for the $10 million development, Cylburn Hills, call for construction of 55 town houses and 47 detached houses. The town houses would be closer to the existing Coldspring community and the detached houses would back up to the arboretum.

About two dozen Cylburn supporters came to the commission meeting, including representatives from the Maryland Ornithological Society, the Greater Baltimore Environmental Center and the Baltimore Bird Club. Many said they hoped the residential construction would not mar the arboretum's natural beauty or disturb its denizens, including quail, herons and a great horned owl.

The developers' plan includes a "buffer zone" of trees and vegetation between the houses and the arboretum, varying in width from about 300 feet to about 20 feet. Several speakers suggested that the developers create a wider buffer zone and close a gap in a fence that Coldspring residents currently use to enter the Cylburn property.

"I'd like to have a buffer of at least 75 feet and I'd like to have people only go through the front entrance," said Audrey Sawyer, president of the Cylburn Arboretum Association, a group with 500 members.

"We need to take care of this peaceful oasis," said Marian Probst, second vice president of the association. "It's a very valuable thing."

Representatives for Struever Bros. and its land planner, Daft McCune Walker, said the team is making every effort to preserve the natural beauty of Cylburn because that is one of the project's key selling points.

They noted that they are building only about one-fourth of the number of residences allowed by current zoning.

Stelios Spiliadis, chairman of the planning commission, noted that yesterday's action is only one step in the approval process and that the developers must return to the commission to obtain approval of their final development plan.

That two-step process, he said, gives community groups more chances to make suggestions for improving the design. According to city planner Laurie Feinberg, the developers have agreed to meet regularly with Cylburn representatives and others so they will have a say in the way the property is developed.

Dan Henson, a partner of Struever Bros., said he hopes to receive the council's approval in time to open a sales trailer on the site this spring and begin construction this summer. He expects the project to take two years or less to complete, depending on the pace of sales.

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