Hereford in north Balto. Co. at development crossroads New buildings herald change in village

March 30, 1997|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

The village of Hereford, which once rejected a McDonald's because it didn't fit the town's image, is bracing for new commercial development that will change the face -- and maybe the character -- of the north Baltimore County crossroads.

Two office buildings are scheduled to open this summer, several commercially zoned parcels are for sale and a new study is tackling drainage problems that have blocked business expansions in the village center.

Meanwhile, a committee of community leaders reviewing ways to manage growth in rural north county has talked about concentrating development in Hereford to spare other county areas from suburban sprawl.

"We do need a town center up in this part of the county," says Vernon Foster, a farmer who has lived in Hereford 78 years. "I think it would help keep the business in Baltimore County that is going to Pennsylvania."

But Paul Hupfer, head of the zoning and development committee for the neighboring Sparks-Glencoe Community Association, says pending growth could destroy Hereford.

"I think it's going to choke itself to death," he said.

Until recently, Hereford seemed unlikely to amount to anything more than a cluster of businesses, houses and doctors' offices midway between Cockeysville and Shrewsbury, Pa. But Hereford is one of only two rural village centers in the county -- a zoning designation that allows more intense commercial development.

And despite a fitful economy, the community has grown. The high school and United Methodist Church have been expanded. A traffic light was installed in 1991 to handle the increased traffic on York and Mount Carmel roads.

Today, Hereford is a T-shaped village with its older buildings generally clustered along York Road and newer buildings along Mount Carmel. Hereford's inventory includes two banks, two pharmacies, a supermarket, a dry cleaner, veterinary hospital, library, post office, an antiques store, a bagel shop and a driving range and miniature golf course.

Yet Hereford still looks like a rural village. Residents gather for breakfast and lunch at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant, where owner Betty Winner works in the kitchen and knows who's out front by the food they order.

Although the Hereford Community Association defeated the McDonald's in 1993 -- killing the proposal -- she was confident that the business her parents began almost 50 years ago would survive a fast-food invasion. She also is not afraid development will harm the town. "I think it can only help."

Visions vary about what Hereford may become. Some, including Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, who represents the area, say Hereford could resemble a New England town, with shops attracting tourists and serving residents.

But Carl Yarema, who owns a local office building, is skeptical. "It's not going to be a New England town. It's not New England."

Even though a town plan recommends size and architectural restrictions on new businesses, Yarema predicts Hereford will change. "Those restrictions will keep it to a small size," he says. "What you call it I don't know, but it won't be a country town."

Hupfer, who helped write the town plan, fears that assessment may be correct. He complains that developers are erecting buildings that are too large and paving over too much land, which threatens the village's wells. "What they are doing is destroying the long-term prospects."

Although some Hereford folks say Sparks-Glencoe residents shouldn't be meddling in the village's affairs, Hupfer defends his interest in the town.

"It's our community, too," he says. "It's the north county's center, and we go there for our services."

Planners estimate 18,000 area residents could call Hereford their town. And their numbers are growing as housing developments such as Mount Carmel Meadows and Sattler's Woods are built nearby.

Hoping to take advantage of the increased population, lawyer Allan G. Iannacone and pharmacist Dennis Eaton are erecting a retail and office building just west of the Baptist church on Mount Carmel Road. The building, scheduled to open this summer, is to house a card shop, offices and a drug store.

A large increase in patients in the past 10 years prompted orthodontists Dr. Thomas McInnes and Dr. Thomas Barron to build the other new office building -- an 8,800-square-foot Georgian structure on York Road; it is scheduled to open in June.

Other projects might be built once storm water problems are remedied. Development is prohibited in some village areas because of drainage troubles.

A consultant's report on the issue is nearing release, and the county plans to spend $1 million in fiscal 2000 to build a new drainage system.

Looking to Hereford's future, a group of local business owners recently started to review the town plan and seek changes to make development easier.

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