Balto. County limits construction Height restrictions imposed on sites at Green Spring Station

Developers threaten to sue

October 06, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Bowing to pressure from residents worried about traffic, the Baltimore County Council enacted a law last night that could block construction of offices and stores across from the eastern gateway to the Green Spring Valley.

The law tightens control over expansion of Green Spring Station on Falls Road by requiring a county hearing officer to approve any building taller than 35 feet planned for tracts within 750 feet of rural conservation areas.

The County Council's 6-1 vote came despite protests and threats of a suit by developers, who have planned high-rise offices and retail space for the property.

Stuart D. Kaplow and Julius W. Lichter, the developers' lawyers, say the law will make it difficult to expand Green Spring Station because it requires development to be compatible with neighboring areas.

"How is a multi-story office building compatible with a cornfield?" Kaplow asked.

Dundalk Democrat Louis L. DePazzo, the measure's only opponent on the council, also called it unfair.

"I think it's just unfair to that person who played by the rules. Somebody's getting worked over," DePazzo said after the meeting.

James E. Tebay, president of the Meadows Homeowners' Association and spokesman for an umbrella group representing 4,000 homes near Green Spring Station, praised the law, saying it won't affect just that development, but rural areas around the county located close to business zones.

The lopsided vote "shows a broad support across this county. It's good, solid legislation," he said.

Residents say the development would strain sewer systems and increase traffic problems just north of the beltway at Falls and Joppa roads.

T. Bryan McIntire, the North County-Owings Mills Republican who sponsored the measure, said the law is needed to control growth in the traffic-weary corridor.

"Large buildings mean more people, and this greatly impacts on roads, especially rural roads. It impacts on water. It impacts on sewer. Our only response should not be simply enhancing infrastructure," he said.

The bill does not apply to industrial or office zones and exempts areas designated for development like White Marsh and Owings Mills, Planned Unit Developments and existing buildings that are merely being redeveloped, but not enlarged.

McIntire said the bill fills a gap in zoning laws, providing buffers for residential areas near business zones, but not for rural areas.

Lichter charged that the law is just an election year "ruse" to pacify voters.

One developer, Foxleigh Enterprises, wants to build an eight-story complex with 130,000 square feet of office space and five levels of parking on Falls Road and Joppa Road. Two other developers, Greenspring Racquet Club owner William Hirshfeld and Howard Brown, want to replace the tennis barn with an 86,900-square-foot retail and office building.

Their lawyers have argued before the County Council that both buildings would be built on existing parking lots and would not take any farmland.

Plans for the Foxleigh proposal have received preliminary county approvals. But officials have refused to issue building permits, which would give the project legal protections from further review.

The Racquet Club project hasn't progressed as far. Attorneys for Foxleigh say they could argue the new law is unconstitutional, doesn't apply to them because they have approval and is an attempt to legislate retroactively.

The measure will take effect Oct. 15.

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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