Protecting the watershed Golf academy: Land near Loch Raven Reservoir warranted Rupperberger's intervention.

October 29, 1997

BALTIMORE COUNTY Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger was correct to suggest buying the site of a proposed golf academy in the Loch Raven watershed.

County executives usually should steer clear of involvement in determining what someone can do with a piece of land. These decisions should be made, on their merits, by zoning hearing officers, planning and appeals boards and judges. Executives can take a position one way or another. But generally, the executive should stand aside while land-use issues wend their way through proper channels.

Exceptions to that rule must involve issues of intense public interest, such as the integrity of a watershed that supplies drinking water.

The proposed nine-hole golf course, museum and practice tees passed environmental muster. The zoning officer who presided over a hearing last spring found opponents had failed to show the course would harm the watershed.

Still, it is difficult to argue with Mr. Ruppersberger that government should do what it can to protect the watershed from any impact. This deal is far from done. But if the county eschews agriculture on this land and opts for reforestation or low-intensity recreation with forest buffers, the watershed will be better off.

A decade ago, Baltimore County officials fought city plans to expand Pine Ridge Golf Course, also near Loch Raven. They now are fighting Carroll County's plans to allow industrial land along Liberty Reservoir. Keeping the golf academy site out of private hands reenforces the Towson government's commitment to safeguard this region's drinking water.

Pub Date: 10/29/97

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