Growth tidal wave washes westward 9 residential projects set for development in West Friendship

September 09, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

When Jim and Pam Ehrenfried take their daily walk on Emerald Valley Road in West Friendship, the road takes them past a brick sign trumpeting their arrival into Hawksfield Estates.

But what is missing are residents, houses or cars to greet the couple -- only a broad swath of asphalt runs through lush grass and towering trees.

The road is a precursor for what will become a five-house subdivision on 17.7 bucolic acres. And the rest of West Friendship is marked for growth, too.

Besides Hawksfield Estates, eight residential plans will add 156 houses to West Friendship.

The largest is an 82-house subdivision on 208 acres of a farm owned by County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a West Friendship farmer who represents the western part of Howard County.

Homeowners, such as the Ehrenfrieds, say they won't stand in the way of the juggernaut that is development.

"There's not much you can do," says Jim Ehrenfried, whose house on Emerald Valley Road abuts the proposed development at the rear. "I have no problem with [Hawksfield Estates] as long as I don't see any townhouses out here."

Some residents acknowledge the pressure on county officials to allow growth in West Friendship, which is defined by planners as the area bounded by the Carroll County line to the north, Route 97 to the west, Folly Quarter Road to the south, and the junction of U.S. 40 and Route 144 to the east.

But other residents also say they're not happy with the prospect of more houses.

"If you're the type of person who thinks that this is progress, it's probably fine to you," says Barbara Goodman, who has raised horses on a 13-acre farm on Marriottsville Road for nine years. "To me, it's not fine."

It's a familiar story line for people like Goodman and the Ehrenfrieds, who chose the tranquillity of rural life over the frenetic pace of urban living.

After growth occurs in areas with the infrastructure capable of handling more traffic and more schoolchildren, development spreads to regions on the edge. Extending public water or sewer lines as a way to mollify homeowners seems to exacerbate the issue.

Growth first occurred around Interstate 70 and Route 32 -- the unofficial heart of West Friendship. May statistics compiled by the county Department of Planning and Zoning show that the West Friendship area has 2,961 houses and 9,138 residents.

By 2020, the area is projected to grow to about 17,600 homeowners and 6,900 households, says a report released last year by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, which represents Baltimore and the surrounding counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard.

But several factors have blunted the impact of development. Much of the land in West Friendship is zoned for 3-acre lots or cluster zoning, which allows developers to build one house for every 4.25 acres. A property owner must have a significant amount of acreage to make a profit.

Between April 1992 and 1997, the county issued fewer than 100 building permits annually for the West Friendship region.

Also, the county and state have set aside 5,770 acres in West Friendship for agricultural preservation. And public water and sewer lines extend as far west as Marriottsville Road -- far short of the area's epicenter.

"Without water and sewer, there's not much you can do," says Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning. "You're still not going to get a whole lot of large parcels in there."

That's little comfort to residents who say they made a conscious decision to avoid areas like Columbia and Ellicott City.

"I bought out here because it's country," says Pat Anthony, who is eyeing a 16-house subdivision proposed at the end of her street, Wellworth Way. "I was hoping that it would stay that way."

Two projects planned for Woodstock Road -- including an 11-home community opposite Woodstock on Route 99 -- are reminding Bonnie Teal why she moved from Ellicott City seven years ago.

"It was all wooded when we moved here," says Teal, who lives on Quarter Horse Drive. "Now you can see homes everywhere. It's getting congested."

Ronald Olinger, who raises buffaloes on his farm on Marriottsville Road, says homeowners can't stop people from trying to move into the area. "People have to have a place to live," he says. "That's the way it is."

Says Joan Heneberry, a neighbor of the Ehrenfrieds: "You move out here and you want them to close it so that no one else can move in. But you know that that's not right."

Pub Date: 9/09/98

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