10-year plan seeks to limit development Proposal aims to preserve rural Baltimore County

November 02, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County officials would sharply limit new homes in rural areas while strengthening efforts to make older, urbanized neighborhoods attractive to young families under a proposed 10-year Master Plan now available in county libraries.

Calling single-family home developments "the single greatest threat to the preservation of agricultural lands," the plan suggests that owners of residentially zoned land in rural areas be required to buy development rights from farms in preservation areas before they can build.

The plan -- which is advisory in nature and would have to be adopted by the County Council -- calls for more scrutiny and planning board reviews for any new large institutional development on rural land.

And it states that the county should maintain "the rural character of the existing road network." That would be intended to preserve the character of rural areas beyond the line where city water and sewerage stops.

"I think the overwhelming demand in my district is to slow down development," said county Councilman T. Brian McIntire, a north county-Owings Mills Republican who has monitored many of the discussions that went into the plan. "I think the overwhelming majority of citizens would vote for a moratorium."

Officials say the revision -- required under county law -- is the logical extension of the 1979 and 1989 plans that set the county's basic development strategy: preserving rural areas by allowing dense residential and commercial development only in places already served by city utilities.

"What we're recognizing is that traditional land consumption growth is coming to an end. We really want to turn our attention to preservation of rural land," said David Pinning, a landscape architect hired 18 months ago to shepherd the plan into existence.

The plan also calls for aggressive new tactics to protect and improve older areas. That would include tough rules to make sure that new developments -- and renovations -- are of high quality, well designed and compatible with surrounding neighborhoods.

It would encourage new single-family homes in growth areas such as White Marsh, Honeygo and Owings Mills, while establishing a "quasi-public redevelopment corporation with the power to acquire and redevelop property."

The county also wants more information about its growing number of senior citizens, now about 20 percent of the population, but expected to increase dramatically by 2010. The plan suggests a new study of the elderly and their need for specialized housing.

Many of the document's ideas have been discussed in groups over the last 18 months, said Arnold F. "Pat" Keller, county planning director

Although some -- such as the sale of development rights -- might seem to make homebuilding more difficult, development attorney Stuart Kaplow says the concept isn't necessarily bad.

"It can be a good idea. It has worked elsewhere," he said, cautioning that the details of legislation would determine how acceptable it would be.

In general, Keller said, the county is looking at itself "as a more urbanized environment." But he said Baltimore County wants a different sort of development than that in Howard County, where farmland is being steadily devoured by mini-mansions on three- to five-acre lots.

The draft plan and a summary are available in the county's 16 public libraries and will be posted on the Internet in two weeks. Public information meetings are scheduled for late January, and after revisions, the plan will go to the county planning board in March.

Keller wants to deliver the advisory recommendations to the County Council by July, one month before the next quadrennial countywide zoning review begins.

Pub Date: 11/02/98

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