Hayfields water study is ordered by court Impact of golf course on aquifer to be reviewed

August 28, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Opponents of the newly opened Hayfields Country Club won a legal victory yesterday when Maryland's second highest court ruled that Baltimore County officials did not adequately consider the environmental impact of the golf course.

The long-awaited ruling by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals will have no immediate effect on the country club, as opponents said they do not plan to seek a court order to close the facility now. The ruling, however, opens up the possibility that the county could eventually shut down the golf course even though project opponents yesterday stopped short of saying that was their goal.

The appeals court ordered the county's Board of Appeals to reconsider what effect the 18-hole golf course will have on an aquifer that runs beneath the land once honored by the Marquis de Lafayette.

Both sides said they were pleased with the court's decision, which sided mainly with the developers while leaving Hayfields opponents some hope for defeating or modifying the project.

"I'm happy to have a win on one issue," said George A. Nilson, the lawyer representing the Valleys Planning Council and residents who opposed the country club.

G. Scott Barhight, who represented the Nicholas Mangione family, who developed Hayfields, noted that the court had sided with the developers on every issue except the one.

"We're confident that on remand the board is going to determine that we won't have an adverse impact on the water quality," Barhight said.

The 474-acre Hayfields is one of the oldest and most prominent farms in the county. In 1824, Lafayette, the Revolutionary War hero, declared Hayfields the best-managed farm in the state.

The Valleys Planning Council had argued that the Board of Appeals failed to evaluate the harm the development would cause to the historic buildings, but in the 51-page opinion, the court disagreed, saying "Hayfields cannot be forced to continue its farming operation."

The court, however, did agree with the opponents who argued that the Board of Appeals failed to adequately weigh the threat the development posed to an aquifer that flows beneath the property.

If the board concludes that the course endangers the ground water, it must determine whether the course at Hayfields poses a greater threat than it would in most other rural areas of the county. Such a determination could cause the county to withdraw its approval of the golf course, opening up a new round of legal challenges.

If the opponents seek an injunction, they would have to prove that the environmental harm posed to the ground water is greater than the harm the developer would suffer if the facility were closed.

Except for the environmental question, the decision gave several victories to Hayfields, including one that allows the developer to build 39 houses instead of 37 near the golf course.

The court also dismissed the Valleys Planning Council's argument that Hayfields' "country club" designation means the club can't be open to the general public. Although Hayfields developers have limited the facilities to members and their guests, the court ruled that they are not required to do so.

Pub Date: 8/28/98

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