The war over the historic Hayfields farm in northern Baltimore County is about to open yet another front, as Nicholas Mangione prepares to submit a development plan for the 474-acre tract that area residents call the cornerstone of the rural valleys.
The plan for a golf course community will be submitted to the county planning office "any day now" and construction will begin this year, said G. Scott Barhight, Mr. Mangione's lawyer.
But opponents are collecting money and continuing a multipronged attack on the project, which they say could open the valleys for development.
"We will fight as long as we have to, to stop it," said John Bernstein, director of the Valleys Planning Council, which represents community groups in the area. Residents already have pledged about $100,000 for the fight, which he predicted will drag on another two or three years.
The Mangione family bought the property at Interstate 83 and Shawan Road in 1986. But the developer didn't submit the concept plan for the golf course until last fall.
Test wells have been drilled and trees planted, but other work must wait. Four county entities and the Baltimore County Circuit Court are reviewing aspects of the project.
The county groups include:
* The county Board of Appeals. Last week, the board concluded a sixth day of testimony from opponents challenging the zoning commissioner's decision to permit the country club on the farm.
Residents and the people's counsel for the county argue that a golf course is inappropriate on the farm, which has some of the most productive soils in the county. They contend a golf course will add to traffic congestion, overtax local wells and pollute the ground water with pesticides and fertilizers.
At least one more day of testimony will be scheduled before the board concludes the hearing, Mr. Barhight said.
* The county Landmarks Preservation Commission. It must make a recommendation to the planning board on whether the golf course is compatible with historic buildings on the property.
The farm dates back to the mid-18th century, when it was owned by the Merryman family. In 1824, Hayfields' owner was awarded a silver tankard by the Marquis de Lafayette for the best-managed farm in the state.
Seven historic structures, including the 186-year-old farmhouse, are on the site.
* The planning board. It must consider how the overall plan meshes with the historic site, although the board has said that it will not make a decision before viewing the development plan.
Once that plan is submitted to the planning office, it will also be reviewed by the zoning commissioner in a public hearing.
* The Baltimore County Council will have a say in the project in this year's comprehensive rezoning process. The Mangiones want to rezone part of the property to allow for construction of 50 houses instead of the 40 currently allowed.
The Board of Appeals turned down that request last year, and the developer has appealed to the circuit court, which is scheduled to hear the case March 27.
Mr. Barhight said the Mangiones are not surprised by the tangle of reviews and appeals.
"No process has been put in front of us that wouldn't have been required of any other developer," he said.
Nor is the developer surprised by the opposition. "The Valleys Planning Council made it clear that they were opposed to any change of use of the property," Mr. Barhight said.