Judge involved in creating zoning limits gets Hayfields case

March 26, 1997|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

The fate of the proposed Hayfields country club and housing development is in the hands of a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge who, as a councilman more than a decade ago, helped create the zoning restrictions at issue in the case.

Judge James T. Smith Jr. was a member of the County Council between 1978 and 1985, a period in which it adopted a growth management strategy and a master plan curtailing development in the rural northern areas.

Smith, who represented the 3rd District area where the Hayfields farm is located, left the council when he was appointed to the bench. While a council member, he twice denied petitions to rezone the historic farm at Shawan Road and Interstate 83 when condominiums were proposed.

Smith would not comment on the Hayfields case that reached his courtroom yesterday after a long zoning battle between the owners, who want to build a golf course and luxury homes, and preservationists, who prefer that the 471-acre tract remain a farm.

At a hearing yesterday morning, Smith made no mention of his actions on the council. He told the parties he hadn't read the case file, but that he was "generally familiar" with the issues.

The developer and project opponents said they were aware that Smith had served on the council, and neither side opposed his presiding over the case.

Opponents of the development are asking the judge to set aside a Board of Appeals decision that allows the construction of a golf course at Hayfields, which is zoned for resource conservation.

"This is supposed to be an agriculture protection zone, not an agriculture destruction zone," said People's Counsel Peter Max Zimmerman.

Construction of the golf course and 39-unit housing development would destroy what was once one of the most productive farms in the county, harm historic structures, threaten water supplies and create a domino effect with the loss of farms throughout the county's rural valleys, opponents say.

But G. Scott Barhight, the lawyer for the Nicholas Mangione family that owns and wants to develop Hayfields, argued that the owners should not be forced to farm the land, saying golf courses are among the uses permitted in resource conservation zones.

No further hearing is scheduled on the Hayfields appeal, and a ruling by Smith is not expected for several months.

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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