Hampstead's largest developer agrees that town officials were correct in citing him Nov. 15 for failing to set aside enough open space in his 220-unit North Carroll Farms IV development.
And, says Martin K. P. Hill, the Manchester builder who has put up more than 800 homes in Hampstead in the past decade, "So what?"
"It would appear the town's point is correct, or technically correct," Mr. Hill said.
"It would also appear that every planned-unit development that has ever been approved and built in Hampstead has the exact same problem because all of them were reviewed in the same way."
That's what Hampstead officials have told other developers. The town is reviewing documents to see whether other communities were built without strict adherence to open-space requirements, said Neil Ridgely, town manager.
Thomas J. Gisriel, a Towson attorney who represents the town, said letters mailed to the developers were sent to give notice and seek their opinions.
"The town hasn't come out with its six-guns blazing," he said. "This is a real issue that needs to be addressed."
Growth was the main election campaign issue in May and town officials are trying to move forward, keeping in mind the wishes of voters, Mr. Gisriel said.
No one has decided what should be done, he said. "It's unreasonable, or at least unlikely, that anyone will want to tear down houses to create open space in those developments already built.
"The town may want to do something [about the open-space deficiency] in those that are still in the planning stages, however," Mr. Gisriel said.
Hampstead regulations require that not less than 25 percent of the gross acreage within a planned-unit development be allotted for open space. The code stipulates that the open space "shall not include streets, off-street parking or utility easements."
The crux of the issue lies in the town's definition of utility easement, which includes, for example, an underground pipe used for storm water management. The pipe may be buried in an area that is, or could be, used as a playground, which would be a violation of the town ordinance.
In lifting previously approved building permits for Mr. Hill's North Carroll Farms IV project, Hampstead officials have taken the stance that building permits approved in conflict with a town ordinance are invalid.
Last week, town officials continued their review of planned-unit developments, sending three more certified letters to developers who might be in violation.
In each letter, Mr. Ridgely said the town's engineer is conducting an investigation and would complete reports in about a month. Mr. Ridgely asked each developer to study the potential problem and respond within 30 days with suggestions for ways to resolve the matter.
In addition to his two letters to Mr. Hill, Mr. Ridgely also notified the Lancelotta-Hunt Partnership of Ellicott City, developer of Shiloh Run, and Steven Walton of the Westwood Development Co., who is building Westwood Park.
Brian McCormick, a spokesman for the Lancelotta-Hunt group, said Evergreen Holding Co. Inc. of Erie, Pa., purchased Shiloh Run about 2 1/2 years ago. Evergreen is a subsidiary of Maranson Development Co. Inc. of Columbia.
Attempts to reach Mr. Walton were unsuccessful.