Balmuckety mansion gardens spared Zoning for development at Pikesville site denied

December 06, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Score one for Baltimore County's beleaguered preservationists.

Though the 1767 Samuel Owings House in Owings Mills was lost to the wrecker's ball early this year to make way for an office tower, neighbors' objections to storm water problems near the old Balmuckety mansion in Pikesville have saved its formal gardens -- for now.

A controversial $6.5 million plan to build a 150-bed nursing home and 10 single houses on the site of the turn-of-the-century, neo-Georgian mansion have been denied by Baltimore County's zoning commissioner.

The remnants of the gardens, designed by Thomas Warren Sears, one of America's first landscape architects, are not protected under the county's historic preservation laws, though the mansion on Mount Wilson Lane was to be preserved under the development plan.

Zoning Commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt ruled in a 33-page opinion yesterday that plans to develop the 10-acre site surrounding the Balmuckety mansion are defective because they provide no proper storm water management or reforestation plans.

He said the developer took a "trust us, it will be worked out" position that he rejected.

"I think they're stuck," a jubilant J. Carroll Holzer, lawyer for some opponents, said about the developer. The developer, former state Del. Richard Rynd, was not available for comment.

Julius W. Lichter, Rynd's attorney, disputed Holzer's view.

"I wouldn't think that's true," he said. "This is not much different than any other storm water dispute."

Schmidt decided that none of the four ways the developer's engineers suggested for removing storm water from the site would work. He also ruled that no reforestation plan had been submitted as required.

Schmidt also criticized the county environmental protection and planning departments for their roles in the hearings. He said environmental officials did a 180-degree reversal on storm water problems and glossed over reforestation requirements in the law without providing an explanation.

Holzer, who often represents community groups against developers, said Rynd may appeal, but it likely would do little good. "I don't think they [storm water problems] can be solved," Holzer said. "My client's lawns are flooded all the time" in wet weather, he said.

Pub Date: 12/06/96

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