Residents are resisting golf course development

January 31, 1995|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Sun Staff Writer

Sharon Wise and Henry LeBrun are players in the great game of property development that is being contested almost every day in Baltimore County.

Mr. LeBrun wants to build a public golf course and 382 units of housing on 278 acres of farm and woodland around the corner from Ms. Wise's home in Lyons Manor, a subdivision between Randallstown and Owings Mills.

Ms. Wise and many of her neighbors don't want the development built the way it has been designed.

County officials appear to favor the development, Owings Mills Golf Community, proposed at Lyons Mill and Deer Park roads. The golf course would straddle Deer Park Road just south of Soldiers Delight State Park.

"In terms of land use, it is an advantage to have a golf course," said Arnold F. "Pat" Keller, county director of planning and zoning. "We've been trying to get one in that area for some time."

The matter goes before the county Planning Board next month.

Behind this bare description are people like Ms. Wise, who fears her family's quality of life will be impaired by the uproar of construction and the frustration of traffic congestion.

"Such a massive development would change the character of the area," says Ms. Wise, a management consultant. She also is a member of the board of the Lyons Manor Community Association, which has hired a lawyer to fight the development.

Ms. Wise knew Lyons Manor was in a designated growth area when she moved there, and readily accepted that single-family homes would one day be built on the golf community property.

"But the developers want to add townhouses and condos, and that means more people," she said.

Mr. LeBrun, 58, who grew up in Lutherville and now lives in Owings Mills, said he needs the housing to pay for the golf course. Mr. LeBrun owns a real estate and insurance company in Towson, and has been in development for 15 years. Among his developments are the 119-home Mardella Run, west of Randallstown, and a 135-home development in Aberdeen.

Chris Pippen, 43, is Mr. LeBrun's partner in Triangle-Deer Park, the development company for the project. A graduate of Towson High School and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, he worked for the Rouse Co. until he got into development. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and three children.

They propose to build a par-71, 6,300-yard golf course on 173 acres on the west portion of the property, and a mix of housing clustered on about 100 acres to the east.

To do this, they need a Planned Unit Development designation to allow the housing cluster, and a special exception for the golf course because it is in a rural zone.

The property now is zoned for single-family housing. The PUD request, which would permit single-family, condo and townhouse units, is the crux of the problem. Even Ms. Wise doesn't oppose the golf course, but Mr. LeBrun said he can't do one without the other.

Public water and sewage have been approved by the County Council for the housing and the golf clubhouse. The developers propose to use well water for the golf course, because it's cheaper than public water. If county tests show that use of well water on the course is detrimental to surrounding wells, the developers will buy public water.

The project would include 84 single-family homes, 64 townhouses with garages, 122 standard townhouses and 112 two-bedroom condos. Prices would range from $100,000 for the condos to $200,000 for the detached homes. There also will be two tennis courts, a swimming pool and a small community clubhouse.

"We could have built housing without the golf course," Mr. Pippen said, "but we believe Owings Mills needs a major recreational asset."

"We wouldn't be there if we didn't think this was a good project for the area," Mr. LeBrun said.

Many in the community suspect that the opposition is playing with the deck stacked against it, that the issue already has been decided. But the days of wink-and-nod zoning among politicians are over, County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire indicated last week at a community meeting attended by Mr. LeBrun and Mr. Pippen. The meeting was called by Renew, an organization which represents seven community associations in the Randallstown area.

"The County Council is excluded from the process," Mr. McIntire said. "We're not allowed to meddle with the regulatory process, and I'm here to listen and check for flaws in the process so that they might be corrected for the future.

"I would feel as you do, but where do you draw the line on development? Now that you have yours, you want to stop it. But if growth was put to a public vote, it would pass overwhelmingly, with the merchants screaming the loudest for it."

Residents question the impact of the development on schools and roads.

"[The developers] keep leaning on government for justification of this project," said Bruce Farmer. "But I'm not confident my government can make these decisions for me. We have out-of-control development, overburdened roads, and crowded schools."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.