More than 1,000 acres now can be developed

October 18, 1994|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer

More than 1,000 acres of prime land in the Owings Mills growth center will be open to development now that Baltimore County has received approval for the long-delayed Red Run Boulevard and sewer line.

County Executive Roger B. Hayden announced yesterday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has selected the final road and sewer routes, ending a seven-year feud between the county and the federal agency.

The extension of Red Run Boulevard and the sewer line will serve an area north of Owings Mills Mall between Red Run, an environmentally sensitive trout stream, and Interstate 795. The area is projected to serve as a job center to complement Owings Mills New Town, the area's residential hub.

About 800 acres zoned for industry and commercial use have been waiting as long as 10 years for the conclusion of the road and sewer study, along with 400 acres zoned for housing.

Although some of the residential property has been built up under interim sewerage plans, none of the industrial land has been developed. The county has conditionally approved one major project known as the Riparius Center, a mixture of commercial, office and light industrial space over 160 acres.

Michael J. McCarthy, chairman of Riparius Development Corp., said he was pleased that the last obstacle to development has been removed. He said the company has been waiting for more than six years to build its project.

"I can't praise enough the perseverance of county officials that allowed us to get to this point," he said.

Some of the residential land involved -- part of New Town -- was built using a temporary pumping station. Once the sewer system is completed in about a year, the existing residential development will tie into it, said P. David Fields, project director for the Owings Mills development and head of the county's efforts to preserve older communities.

The county already has $9.5 million in its capital budget for its share of the 2.5-mile Red Run Boulevard extension. The county will also pay about $3 million for the nearly two-mile-long sewer line and pay for the stream valley restoration.

The county and the Corps of Engineers differed on both the road and sewer alignment. The county wanted the road to run through the middle of the industrial area -- creating more attractive development sites. But the corps insisted on a route running almost side-by-side with Interstate 795, arguing that it would have the least environmental impact.

"In the end, the county and land developers agreed to the corps' wishes so that development could proceed," said Mr. Fields.

County officials have been struggling with the Owings Mills growth area since 1992, when Mr. Hayden backed off a long-standing proposal to dam Red Run and create a 100-acre lake to serve as the centerpiece of the development.

The long battle over the dam and lake had overshadowed issues raised by the road and sewer line. When the lake was abandoned, the whole plan had to go through the regulatory process again, public works officials said.

A major breakthrough came last year when major property owners in the last undeveloped portion of the Owings Mills growth area agreed to donate land to the county for the extension of Red Run Boulevard, a sewer line and a 300-acre stream valley park. This agreement, in the form of a nonbinding memorandum of understanding between developers and the county, will save the county millions of dollars in land-acquisition and construction costs. Developers have also agreed to share 40 percent of the cost of constructing the road.

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