No Property Will Be Safe from BuildersThe views expressed...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 25, 1993

No Property Will Be Safe from Builders

The views expressed by Neal R. Peirce in "Land Hogs" (Opinion * Commentary, Sept. 14) provide an interesting commentary on the "suburban sprawl" that is devouring open space around major population centers throughout the country.

Mr. Peirce failed to mention, however, a glaring local example of such gluttonous and environmentally questionable behavior taking place in northern Baltimore County.

Security Management Corporation (SMC) has asked the Baltimore County government to rezone a 215-acre parcel of watershed protection property, enabling them to build more than 3,000 residential units in the I-83 corridor at the intersection of York and Phoenix roads.

Under current zoning, this parcel has been designated to support a maximum of 43 homes. Notably, the land upon which SMC proposes to construct this "citistate" abuts Loch Raven Reservoir, the major source of drinking water for the entire metropolitan area.

But, don't be alarmed: SMC tells us in a recently filed court document that this development "will actually improve water quality in the area and will reduce pollutant loadings to the Loch Raven Reservoir."

Taking this statement to its logical conclusion, we can only assume that maximum protection of our water supply will be assured by encircling our reservoirs with this type of high-density development.

Despite this revolutionary hydrologic management concept, the Baltimore County Council rejected SMC's rezoning application last year.

The council's decision was based on the objections of every county agency asked to study this proposal, including the Department of Public Works, the Department of Environmental Protection Resource Management, the Board of Education, the Department of Recreation and Parks, the Department of Community Development, the Department of Economic Development and the Police and Fire departments.

End of story? Not quite. In response to this rejection, SMC has mounted a two-pronged counterattack.

First, it has appealed the County Council's zoning decision to the Board of Appeals; public hearings are scheduled to be held in Towson beginning the second week of October.

Second, SMC has sued Baltimore County for $80 million in damages for not being allowed to litter a buffer of watershed protection property with its proposed 3,000-unit Italian hillside community development. What's worse, it stands a very real chance of winning both actions.

When will this madness end? I shudder to think of the number of tax dollars that have been and will be spent to entertain this patently unreasonable development proposal. That is to say nothing of the cost of "incidental" expenses (e.g., infrastructure, schools, fire, police, public works) to be incurred by every taxpayer in the county if this plan is approved.

Baltimore County has attempted to manage unrestricted growth through its Master Plan, which designates the Owings Mills and White Marsh areas as growth centers for the county.

In addition, one of the underlying principles of the current zoning maps is to direct and control residential and commercial development. If developers such as SMC are permitted to disregard such comprehensive growth management efforts, no property, regardless of its intrinsic value to the protection of our limited resources in the Baltimore metropolitan area, will be safe from builders seeking to construct maximum density development.

K. Lee Riley Jr.

Sparks

The writer is president of the Greater Sparks-Glencoe Community Council.

I see that Neal Peirce recently opened his eyes to the "endless suburban sprawl." I can't help but wonder where he's been.

We could have used an article like his at least five years or so ago . . . and others like it.

But with developers like Ryland Homes buying up large tracts of land, and county governments believing that tax revenues (and other revenues) generated by the people buying these homes will save the county government, and fees the developers will pay the county will save the county government (I went to hearings; their minds were seeing dollar signs), and as long as our economic outlook is calculated with how the construction industry is doing, and with people like us hindering "progress" that is "inevitable," say goodbye to greenery and "Hi, neighbor" (with the children to be educated and bussed to school, the streets and street lights to maintain, the added garbage pick-up, heavier traffic, more stop lights, etc.). Yes, it's a bad run-on sentence, but allow me.

So what is our hope for the future, Mr. Peirce? Well, I think when all the land is developed, someone will tear down the unused buildings in the cities and plant grass and trees and call them parks and invite all the 'burbs back for the open space. Maybe it will be a "park" developer. After all, construction must not stop.

Deborah June Harrison

Aberdeen

Defending City School Cafeterias

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