Club says road is a hazard to golfers Proposal to close Mays Chapel raises neighbors' concerns

November 07, 1996|By Ronnie Greene | Ronnie Greene,SUN STAFF

One of the Baltimore area's most exclusive country clubs wants to become a bit more exclusive.

The Baltimore Country Club is "exploring options" to seal off a public road that knifes through its property -- and nationally renowned golf course -- on Mays Chapel Road in Baltimore County.

But for the pricey private club, the community response has been decidedly below par.

"The arrogance of it is almost unspeakable," said Charles A. Castronovo, who lives on nearby Chapel Ridge Road. "They tried to make it look like a benefit to us. But this is for a few golfers not wanting to wait a few seconds to cross the street."

Not everyone in his Chapel Ridge neighborhood shares his opinion. During a community forum this week, some residents spoke favorably about the road plan, but many others posed questions -- or criticisms.

The road plan has hit a stop sign in county government.

"I can't imagine that Baltimore County would even consider closing Mays Chapel Road," said Michael H. Davis, spokesman for County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger. "It's a public road. And we're not going to close that because of golf cart traffic."

To the club, steeped in nearly 100 years of tradition, the community response is a "significant overreaction," said F. Pierce Linaweaver, club president.

Downplaying the plans, he said, "We're trying to solve a traffic problem. We're only talking about a little section of the road we're trying to reduce traffic in.

"We have our people crossing the road all the time, and there are safety issues associated with that. The other concern is that it is a rural area, and we're trying to keep it a rural country road."

The 2,800-member club, which last year charged a $30,000 initiation fee per couple, stretches along rolling hills west of Timonium. It was host to the 1988 U.S. Women's Open tournament and has been ranked among the nation's top 100 courses.

Yesterday, after finishing a hole, member Jim Urquhart said golfers must cross the road twice during a round. "I'd like to see it closed," he said, citing potential hazards from cars cruising by. "I don't believe it would be a great inconvenience."

Word of the road plans came when Linaweaver invited residents of the posh county enclave to community forums at the Five Farms clubhouse this week.

His letter said: "As the anchor landowner in the area, and understanding that the Club provides an actual demarcation line between the very obvious high and low density housing in and around Mays Chapel, we have been exploring options related to the potential closing of Mays Chapel Road to traffic through the Club property.

"We believe that, while this action might cause some re-routing of your own travel habits, it may result in many benefits to you, including preserving your land values, and increasing security to your homes."

But Castronovo, who is an engineer, sees no such benefits.

He calculated the impact on his household -- an additional 2.5 miles and six stop signs for every round trip if forced to take another route. Over a week, he said, he and his wife would drive an extra 35 miles and encounter 84 more stop signs.

He also raises safety concerns about closing one of two routes to his community, wondering about the impact on ambulances and emergency crews.

"We would get nothing out of it except increased inconvenience and reduction of our property values," he said. "What they get out of it is an enhanced environment for their real estate and an enhanced environment for recreation."

Castronovo is not the only resident with concerns.

"If the road were closed to the south, our only access in and out of our rural neighborhood would be through townhouse communities," said Betsy Merrick. "In essence, he's cutting us off from the rural neighborhood we live in."

Nancy Evans, who lives on Chapel Ridge Road, is keeping an open mind. "Everybody who lives here would love for the area to stay as beautiful as it is," she said. "The advantage would be that the area would remain somewhat isolated."

But Evans has concerns, too.

"I think many people in the neighborhood are objecting to the manner in which the club is trying to present this " she added. "It appears the club had already made up their minds that the only solution they wanted to consider is closing the road."

Not so, replies Linaweaver, who said the forums are intended for just that -- to hear what the community thinks. Another forum is planned at 4: 30 p.m. today at the clubhouse.

But now, even Linaweaver admits the road plan may be hitting a dead end.

"To the extent there's no support from representatives of the several communities, I'm sure there wouldn't end up being any action taken," he said. "That's the way our government works."

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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