Residents ask for ruling on septic lines Long Green Valley fears development

June 12, 1993|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Staff Writer

The meadow off Long Green Pike near Baldwin Mill Road looks like any other in this quiet, pastoral corner of northern Baltimore County.

But residents say there's a danger beneath it -- the danger they fear most -- development.

The object of their wrath is a septic line that runs under the meadow to a commercially zoned building that houses a High's convenience store, a dentist's office and a dry cleaner.

The septic line follows an easement through land zoned RC-2, with stiff regulations on residential development designed to preserve the rural character of areas such as Long Green Valley.

Neighbors argue that RC-2 zoning does not allow a waste disposal system as a use in support of a commercial operation on another property, and they're asking Zoning Commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt to rule on that point.

Even if Mr. Schmidt rules that the system is allowable as an accessory use to the commercial building, residents contend that the septic line would require a special exception hearing.

County officials and developer Orville Jones argue that a septic system is not mentioned in RC-2 zoning regulations because it is not a "use" but a "service," much the same as a power line, that does not require a hearing.

While it is a technical question, the resolution could affect battles between commercial developers and preservationists throughout the county.

Neighbors argue that allowing agricultural land to be used in this manner would make it easier for developers to build larger projects because they could use adjoining, noncommercially zoned property for septic systems and even parking lots.

To make the issue more complicated, Mr. Jones already has rebuilt the 90-year-old structure in question and installed the septic system -- with county approval.

The Long Green Valley Association filed a protest of the approval of the septic system with the zoning commissioner's office. Other groups in surrounding areas have offered their support.

"These other organizations are watching this closely because it could affect them just as it is affecting us," said Charlotte Pine, association president.

Arnold E. Jablon, the county zoning administrator, said zoning regulations do not deal with ownership of property but with the use of the property.

After Mr. Jones received his building permits, the developer discovered that the septic system on the property was failing. The land is near the Long Green Run, which flows into the nearby Gunpowder River.

When an effort to put a "mound" septic system on Mr. Jones' land proved unsatisfactory to environmental officials, an adjacent property owner agreed to sell Mr. Jones an easement for the septic line through some of his RC-2 zoned property.

The county approved that arrangement, but neighbors are skeptical.

"We are concerned that the septic system drainage area is marshy and that the sewage will leak into and pollute Long Green Run," said Kathy Tyler, a member of the Long Green Valley Association.

The group also has appealed an administrative decision to issue a use and occupancy permit for the building, as well as a sign permit.

The case is scheduled before the county Board of Appeals in August.

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