Magers Landing gets the go-ahead

August 13, 1993|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Staff Writer

A developer has been given the green light to proceed with plans for Magers Landing near historic Monkton, the first contested housing proposal under Baltimore County's controversial new zoning regulation governing development in rural areas.

Deputy Zoning Commissioner Timothy M. Kotroco last week approved Gaylord Brooks Realty Co.'s proposal to build 15 luxury, single-family homes along Monkton Road. In his ruling, Mr. Kotroco rejected residents' challenges to the new zoning regulation and the county's development review process.

The 85-acre site to be developed runs along the north side of Monkton Road just west of the Big Gunpowder Falls River. The 15 houses, to sell for about $400,000 each, will be situated just off the road. The rest of the tract, running north from the road and along the river, will be left intact.

Opponents of Magers Landing challenged the new regulation that allows the houses to be built in a cluster -- or closer together -- contending that clustering conflicts with the rural and agricultural character of the land that the regulation is designed to protect.

The regulation restricts development on property zoned RC-4 to a maximum of 30 percent of the total buildable acreage. The remaining acres go into a conservancy, prohibiting any further development. RC-4 zoning is designed to protect watershed, forests and rural open land from becoming over-developed.

Before the new regulation, development could be spread over the total buildable acreage of property zoned RC-4 although only one house was allowed every three to five acres.

Mr. Kotroco wrote that changing the regulation is outside his jurisdiction. He also said he could not "comment or rule on the wisdom of the County Council in passing the [regulation]." And he noted that the developer proposed 15 houses although the zoning allows 17.

During hearings and in legal briefs, J. Carroll Holzer, attorney for the opponents, attacked the county's development review process and argued that approval of Magers Landing should not be granted until all requirements were met by the developer and detailed reviews were completed by the county. The opponents said the developer should drill and monitor test wells to make sure there is sufficient ground water for septic tanks and well water before Magers Landing was approved. Mr. Kotroco adamantly disagreed.

"To impose such a requirement upon developers in the county would bring all residential development of this nature to a halt," he wrote in his decision. "It would be too burdensome and costly to mandate such a requirement."

Mr. Kotroco added that he doesn't believe that "all checks and balances have to be completed by the time of the hearing on the development plan."

Developments are reviewed by the county at each stage of construction to make sure that the developer complies with all regulations and sticks to the approved plan.

Opponents of the project also said that Magers Landing would disrupt natural storm water drainage and pollute the Gunpowder. Residents also complained that locating the houses near the road would disrupt the scenic vista of the area and be out of character with the area's old farmhouses.

On these points, Mr. Kotroco agreed in part.

Saying that he was very concerned with the environmental impact Magers Landing could have on the Gunpowder, he ordered the county to reconsider its waiver of certain storm water management requirements.

He also ordered that hedgerows and other vegetation now along Monkton Road on the site be kept as a visual buffer between the houses and the road. Mr. Kotroco further ruled that the developer could not erect a permanent sign identifying the development and that garbage couldn't be placed along Monkton Road for collection.

"We haven't carefully analyzed the decision as yet, but it is highly likely that we will appeal," said Gloria Cameron, a community leader.

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