BRIDLE RIDGE, the 63-home project proposed on land owned by St. Timothy's School in the Greenspring Valley, is not the ideal development for a rural area. The homes, one presumes, will be upscale. But the design is typical suburban development, with cul-de-sacs and homes on an acre or so. Bridle Ridge won't be a village, the kind of development that used to evolve naturally in the country. The density contributes to sprawl and does not preserve rural character.
Last week, Baltimore County officials sent the Bridle Ridge plan back to the drawing board because it ignored the presence of a small stream on the property.
Wealthy valley neighbors, who object to the project for all the predictable reasons people object to new development, were thrilled. But it's likely that, in the long run, St. Timothy's will win, assuming it corrects the deficiencies of its development plan.
Why? Because the school is not asking to do anything it is not legally entitled to do. The location and kind of development proposed by St. Timothy's conforms to land use patterns encouraged by the county -- and tacitly accepted by many countians -- for years.
The number of houses involved at Bridle Ridge should have come as no surprise to valley neighbors. The zoning has been in place for a long time. Starting about 1975, planners decided to preserve the valleys by moving residential densities from the floor of the valleys onto the wooded hillsides surrounding them. Residents offered little argument.
Today, it's clear that this has been a far-from-perfect rural development strategy. It has worked in that restrictive zoning has protected the valley floors and much of the north.
But sprawl in the hills and woods is impinging on the area's character. Consensus has yet to be reached on which densities are appropriate in many rural places; rules and laws still mandate sprawling subdivisions while prohibiting hamlets a la Monkton or Glyndon.
It is possible that St. Timothy's and its neighbors can find a compromise. Whether or not that happens, Bridle Ridge will not be a model for future rural development. This controversy magnifies the need for a strategy that makes new building aesthetically pleasing and compatible with surrounding countryside.
Pub Date: 7/22/97