Proposed Loyola College retreat angers Balto. County residents 250 voice their objections to 10-cabin, 7-acre center near Prettyboy Reservoir

November 06, 1998|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A plan by Loyola College to build a retreat center, three parking lots and 10 cabins in northern Baltimore County off Beckleysville Road has angry residents warning about storm water runoff, traffic and potential use of alcohol by people at the retreat center.

Those concerns erupted this week, when 250 people turned out at a community meeting organized by the Prettyboy Watershed Preservation Society, formed to fight the center proposed for a narrow road near Prettyboy Reservoir.

"The main thing was the concern that this kind of commercial use would forever change the rural nature of our community," said Sharon Bailey, who lives near the 101-acre site. "There is nothing like that up here right now. If Loyola was allowed to develop their project, they would leave the door wide open behind them."

But Mark Kelly, a Loyola spokesman, said yesterday, "We have from the beginning tried to engage the community in a series of discussions about the property to find solutions to what they perceive are problems.

"Right now, we're disappointed that these discussions have not been as successful as we ultimately hope they will be," he added.

Loyola officials say they have been seeking a retreat site for nine years, and view the northern Baltimore County property as a quiet setting a convenient distance from the main campus in North Baltimore.

Kelly said the college has filed plans with the county's zoning office showing how a 7-acre area would be used for a 20,000-square-foot retreat center; three parking lots with 25 spaces each, either crushed gravel or grass; and 10 cabins, each 2,000 square feet, for overnight accommodations.

Although Loyola has not purchased the land at Beckleysville and Hare roads, the college has an option to buy it. Kelly declined to say how much the project would cost.

Community residents and college representatives face a potential showdown at a zoning hearing scheduled for Nov. 30.

Timothy M. Kotroco, deputy zoning commissioner, said the college needs the approval of the zoning commissioner for a special exception to the land's rural zone before construction can begin.

Karl Hendrickson, another neighbor who lives a quarter of a mile from the site, said community residents are worried that the development will be more of a banquet center and hotel than a retreat center.

"It's like calling Wal-Mart a clothing boutique," he said, adding that community residents also are concerned that Loyola might want to expand the center once it's built.

Bailey said those who attended the community meeting Monday, to which Loyola officials were not invited, were unanimously opposed.

Earlier discussions between a smaller group of neighbors and the college were unproductive, she said.

"The community had a list of things that were important to the community and [the college] refused almost all of them," Bailey said.

Bailey said the college would not agree to residents' requests that the college restrict alcohol consumption to communion wine, to avoid drunken driving on country roads; hire a full-time security guard; and limit future construction to the original 7-acre site.

But Kelly said college officials found it unreasonable for the community to demand permanent restrictions on the property, such as a prohibition on alcohol consumption.

"What they asked for was beyond what we had submitted to the county. These things we still will continue to negotiate," said Kelly.

Pub Date: 11/06/98

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