Honeygo plan seeks to combat suburban sprawl Controls on growth in eastern Balto. Co. seen as benefit, threat @

May 01, 1994|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Mary Maushard, Ed Brandt and Karin Remesch contributed to this article.

Every day, Gus Moore looks out the picture window of his flagstone ranch house north of Perry Hall and sees his retirement plan. It's spread over a plot of land that crosses Joppa Road and disappears over a hill in row after neat row of peach trees.

"That there is my equity, my retirement, my future," said the 59-year-old grower, nodding toward the land that has been in is family since 1851. "And the county is trying to take it away."

What has Mr. Moore upset is one of the largest and most ambitious developments in Baltimore County history.

The Honeygo Community Plan is an unprecedented effort by planners, builders, neighbors and politicians to provide affordable housing, alleviate crowding in schools and restore a sense of community to an area that has been steamrolled by decades of unchecked suburban sprawl.

Including two developments already approved, Honeygo would have 5,556 homes spread over 2 1/2 square miles, with 9 acres of retail stores, 37 acres of parks, 35 acres for schools, recreation centers and other county uses.

But as big as it appears, Honeygo would have a far smaller population that it would under the county's current zoning laws. That means fewer houses per acre, and as the number of houses drops, in Mr. Moore's mind, so does the value of his land when he decides to sell to a developer.

"I've been shot, had my home burglarized several times, had the woods right behind my house set on fire, but nothing has upset me more than this Honeygo plan the county is trying to push down my throat," he said.

Others affected by development take a different view.

Two miles from Mr. Moore's orchard, music teacher Barbara Schmitt tries to compete with the lunchtime din as she conducts her instrumental music class on the stage of the cafeteria at the crowded Joppa View Elementary School.

The school has a classroom designed for instrumental music. But development overwhelmed Joppa View even before it was built. In the four years since Joppa View opened, Mrs. Schmitt has been able to use her music room for only one year. With students crammed into every nook and cranny, her music room has been appropriated for a kindergarten.

"Dealing with the overcrowding has been stressful on me, but the real ones who suffer are the kids," she said.

In the middle of a tree-shrouded neighborhood off Forge Road, where 30-year-old ranch houses nestle comfortably on large lots, Al Brazil moved back to his boyhood home with his wife, Diane, because he wanted to return to his Perry Hall roots.

"It's changed a lot since I left, and I don't want to see Perry Hall become a community of town homes and apartments and a lot of congestion," he says.

County Planning Director Arnold F. "Pat" Keller concedes that government has been slow to react to problems in the Perry Hall area.

"It was one of the growth areas that we wanted to channel development into, but when fiscal restraints resulted in building outpacing our ability to provide services, the county wasn't prepared, for many complex reasons, to deal with it." he said.

With the Honeygo Community Plan, Mr. Keller said, the county is attempting to do it right this time.


Honeygo gets its name from Honeygo Run, a stream that runs along the southern border of the area on its way to Bird River. The planned community stretches from Gunpowder Falls in the north to Honeygo Run and Chapel Road in the south, from Old Philadelphia Road in the east to Belair Road on the west. Altogether, the Honeygo area covers 3,000 acres of farms, woods and scattered clusters of older neighborhoods.

The Honeygo Community Plan, which is before the County Council, has its roots in the quaintness-by-design of the Kentlands development in Montgomery County, and in Baltimore County, such as historic Old Dundalk and the classic grid design of neighborhoods such as Rodgers Forge and Rosedale.

"We wanted the look of the older, more traditional neighborhoods," said Andrea Van Arsdale, a senior growth management planner. "Too many of the suburban developments are laid out so that they don't lend themselves to the feeling of a community."

Low-density community

The proposal would create a low-density community in which slightly more than 60 percent of the housing units would be single-family homes. That would mean reducing much of the high-density zoning that was applied to the land in 1985 -- after it became part of the Perry Hall-White Marsh Growth area in the county's master plan.

By reducing the number of homes that can be built, the county would make the land less valuable -- and less expensive for the middle-class families the county wants to attract and keep.

"We're losing too many of our residents to Harford County, because they can find more affordable housing there," said former Planning Director P. David Fields.

One of them is Beth Lyndhurst, who grew up in Baltimore County and never had any intention of leaving. But when she and her husband started shopping for their first house last year, they developed a case of sticker shock.

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