Hayfields: Time for a reality check Baltimore County: The choice is between two kinds of development.

August 28, 1996

THE RENEWED FOCUS on the Civil War history of northern Baltimore County's Hayfields farm does not really add to, or change, the issues surrounding plans for a golf course on the 475-acre tract. Hayfields was a historically significant property before a Pulitzer Prize-winning Princeton historian recently suggested a study of the site. More important, its fate has always been crucial to the valleys because its development could spawn a domino effect (though the fact that public water and sewer would not be extended to the golf course makes that possibility somewhat less threatening).

Ideally, Hayfields would remain a farm, be purchased by a preservationist or bought by the county for a historical park. Realistically, none of those things is likely to happen. The Ruppersberger administration is not about to spend millions to buy Hayfields -- a valuable property from a local historical perspective but not exactly Little Roundtop. And none of the North County property owners who want Hayfields farmed offered to buy when it went up for sale 10 years ago or is offering to buy it now.

So there are two options. If the Mangione family that owns the property wins permission to build the golf course, Hayfields' seven historic structures will be restored and opened to the public. Some would be converted to modern uses; the mansion, for instance, would become a country club and restaurant. The county's Landmark Preservation Commission has been working with the Mangiones to ensure that the site's historic integrity is respected. While the panel opposes the golf course per se, it has approved the developers' plans for the buildings.

If permission for the golf course is denied, the Mangiones can still build 39 houses. They would be required to maintain the historic structures, but not improve them. Preservation purists insist this is the better of the two options, but that is debatable. There are considerable advantages to restoring Hayfields and allowing the public access to it. Many historic buildings, such as antebellum Antrim in Carroll County, have been made into lovely, useful facilities without violating their heritage.

It is crucial that the public understand the real choices here. This is a choice between two different kinds of development, not between a golf course and a farm.

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