A proposed 15-home development is forcing supporters and detractors into unfamiliar territory as they try to adhere to rules laid down under Baltimore Country's new regulations on rural development.
Magers Landing, the development near historic Monkton has received preliminary approval, but area residents want the county to study the possible affects of the project before approving the development plan.
The 85-acre site features steep, wooded hills, gurgling streams and 150-year-old houses. Local residents want to keep the area's rural, historic character intact.
The new law, designed to control development in rural areas and preserve their rural character, could help them. But Gloria Cameron, who owns a 55-acre farm across Monkton Road from the development site, said county agencies have not followed the intent of the legislation.
The site runs along the north side of Monkton Road just west of the Big Gunpowder Falls River. The 15 houses, which would sell for about $400,000, would be just off the road. The rest of the property, running north from the road and along the river, would be left alone.
"The area that will not be developed is the most environmentally sensitive portion and that is why we and the county agreed to keep the development along the road," said Steve Smith, vice president for Gaylord Brooks, the development firm for Magers Landing.
But residents say placing houses near the road would disrupt the vista. They also say the new housing will be out of character with the area's old farmhouses, many of which are on local, state and national landmark lists.
Opponents of the project also say the development would disrupt the natural storm water drainage. Mrs. Cameron and other residents are worried that a failure of the development's septic system could pollute the Gunpowder River and the local ground water that feeds residential wells.
The residents want the county to drill test wells to make sure there is sufficient ground water. County officials pointed out that even if a plan is approved, a building permit would not be issued for a house if the lot doesn't have sufficient water for a well.
Andrea Van Arsdale, county chief of strategic planning, said, "Magers Landing is a well-designed project and it has meet all county development regulations." Ms. Van Arsdale said the county got the developer to move several housing sites, which originally were on slopes leading down to the river.
Gaylord Brooks, the development firm, has developed several housing projects in the area, including one on Piney Hill Road, south of the Magers Landing site. That project drew praise from local residents.
J. Carroll Holzer, attorney for the residents, and G. Scott Barhight, counsel for Gaylord Brooks, conceded that everyone was proceeding into uncharted waters.
"This is clearly a case of first impression since this is the first contested case not only of the new . . . law but also under the county's new development review regulations," Mr. Barhight said.