Edgemere development OK'd despite protests

January 23, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

A plan to build 366 homes on land near Back River in Edgemere has been approved by the Baltimore County Board of Appeals despite residents' objections and a zoning change by the County Council in 1992 that would have prohibited a development that large.

The board's 2-1 ruling reversed a decision the council made during its last overall zoning review, when it reduced the land's density from 5.5 homes per acre to one home per acre. Before that decision, the zoning would have permitted as many as 814 homes.

The vital issue in the board's decision was whether the County Council erred in lowering the zoning density on the land. Error is one of the few arguments protesters can make in trying to overturn a council zoning decision, and experts for the developers testified that the council made a mistake in reducing the density so much. There are no other areas with a limit of one house per acre within five miles of the Back River site, according to testimony.

Residents opposing the development noted that the developer's original proposal called for 800 homes. Virginia Tolbert, president of the North Point Community Coordinating Council, said she fears that once permission to build 366 homes is granted, the developer may decide to build more units. Under the board's ruling, which calls for a density of as many as 3.5 houses per acre, the developer could build a maximum of 500 homes.

Potential traffic jams prompted most of the local opposition, said Janet Wood, president of the improvement association for nearby Wells-McComas.

"It's complete overkill," she said. Access to the site is from Morse Lane, off North Point Boulevard near the Baltimore Beltway.

Opponents say the spot is already a bottleneck on the peninsula. "It's one hell of an area to get out of or get into," said County Councilman Donald C. Mason, D-7th.

The developer, Beachwood Limited Partnership, has agreed to improve the intersection of Morse Lane and North Point Boulevard as part of its proposal.

An industrial park originally was planned for the site in 1979, but inflation and recession killed that idea and the land was rezoned from industrial to residential in 1984. The county planning department did not oppose the current plan for 366 homes, which amounts to 2.6 homes per acre.

People's Counsel Peter Max Zimmerman opposed the developer, arguing that there was no real reason to conclude that the County Council erred in 1992.

C. William Clark, the dissenting board member, said it was clear that Mr. Mason reduced zoning density on the land because of residents' worries about traffic congestion and that no new facts had come to light to challenge his reasoning since 1992.

County Council members have almost complete authority over zoning laws in their districts, subject only to review by the Board of Appeals.

Mr. Zimmerman has until Feb. 20 to appeal the decision to Circuit Court but said he hasn't decided whether to do so.

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