Bill would limit big buildings in rural areas McIntire proposal may pre-empt expansion of Green Spring Station

September 16, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

The expansion of Green Spring Station -- criticized by neighbors who fear increased traffic congestion -- could be pre-empted by legislation before the Baltimore County Council that would to limit the construction of large office buildings near rural areas.

Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a Republican who represents Owings Mills and the northwestern part of the county, said he introduced the bill to protect county farmlands that is adjacent to business zones.

He declined to say whether the bill targets the Green Spring projects.

"I discovered an anomaly in the Baltimore County zoning regulations," said McIntire. "We are checking out how the bill relates to all of the affected business zones."

But neighbors of Green Spring Station at Falls and Greenspring Valley roads hope the bill would forestall two plans to expand the office-and-retail center.

Jim Tebay, a spokesman for the West Seminary Avenue Home Owners Association Coalition, said his organization "is very pleased that the councilman has taken our interest to heart and has proposed some creative legislation."

Lawyers representing the two projects said they didn't know whether the bill would affect the developments.

"We're reviewing the legislation to see what its impact would be," said Stuart D. Kaplow, who represents Foxleigh Enterprises, one of the companies seeking to expand Green Spring Station.

Eight-story complex

Foxleigh wants to build an eight-story retail-and-office complex on what is now a parking lot at Green Spring Station.

The plan calls for a 130,000-square-foot structure that would include five levels of parking, three stories of offices and 30,000 square feet of retail space.

County officials approved the project last month, though community groups said they will appeal the decision.

William Hirshfeld, who owns the 22-year-old Greenspring Racquet Club, and developer Howard Brown have revealed plans to raze the club and build two office buildings -- one five stories and the other six stories -- and a three-story parking deck.

Their plan has not been approved by the county.

Community groups in the area oppose the two projects, saying they would add traffic to congested roads and overburden a sewer system nearing capacity.

The proposed projects, coming so close to farmlands, underscore the need to review all of the county's commercial zones, said Jack Dillon, director of the Valleys Planning Council, which opposes the Green Spring developments.

Many of these zones permit construction that is too dense for the surrounding areas -- not only in rural zones but also in residential zones, said Dillon, who called McIntire's bill "a big step in the right direction."

McIntire said he introduced the bill to eliminate an anomaly in Baltimore County's zoning regulations. While office buildings and other commercial structures must be set back certain distances from residential areas, rural areas have no such protections, McIntire noted.

His bill would prohibit an office building taller than 35 feet from being built in a business zone within 1,000 feet of a rural zone, unless the project receives the approval of a hearing officer.

The hearing officer would have to determine that the building would not adversely affect the surrounding area.

The bill would not affect buildings in the county's industrial or office zones.

'Excellent sense'

County Council Chairman Stephen G. Sam Moxley said he intends to support the bill, which would affect two overcrowded areas in his district.

"In these two areas it affects in my district, it makes excellent sense," he said.

Economic Development Director Robert L. Hannon said he had been concerned that the legislation could hurt the county's economic engines in Hunt Valley and Owings Mills but believes that those concerns have been addressed.

"I haven't had a chance to read it, but we think we're OK," he said.

McIntire said he expected the bill would be amended before the council vote, which is scheduled for next month.

"It needs refining," McIntire said.

Pub Date: 9/16/98

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