Fighting fair over Hayfields Golf course won't fit: But it should be fought on its merits, not by exploiting the process.

April 24, 1996

THERE'S A RIGHT way and a wrong way to fight land development. The right way involves defeating a project on its demerits. The wrong way involves using the planning process to delay or complicate a builder's plans without valid reason. The Baltimore County planning board appears to be fighting a golf course and 39-house development at the historic Hayfields farm the wrong way.

Last week, the board -- charged only with reviewing the Hayfields project's impact on seven historic buildings, not deciding whether the project should be built -- surprised not only developer Nick Mangione but historic preservationists with several suggested changes -- major changes -- to the plan. They include moving four houses, creating a 300-foot buffer between the golf course and Shawan Road and putting banquet facilities in a separate building from the main mansion, where the kitchen and clubhouse are planned. The question is, will these changes really make a difference to the historical integrity of the buildings? Or are they mere obstacles thrown in the way of an unpopular project the board opposes?

The county Landmarks Preservation Commission, a stickler for details and an opponent of the golf course, has been workin with the developer for more than a year to ensure that this project, assuming it survives the appeals process, does the least possible damage to the buildings. The panel will assess the board's recommendations this week, but the commission would not have signed off on the development plan had it not been satisfied that steps have been taken to protect the buildings.

Strictly from a lay standpoint, moving the banquet facilities to a separate location seems not only impractical for the builder but of little more aesthetic benefit than housing them in a compatible addition to the mansion. Nor is the value of the buffer clear. Aesthetically, a golf course is not that objectionable. Practically, it's doubtful anybody would farm this strip of land.

The valleys are a precious resource, and development there must be minimized. Though zoning permits Mr. Mangione to build 40 houses, the golf course has been appealed and remains fightable. But the county must make sure the project is fought on its merits, not by using the process to frustrate the builder.

Pub Date: 4/24/96

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