Flight over

Baltimore Airpark: Neighbors seem to accept the loss of this open space with a sense of inevitability.

April 22, 1999

IN MANY PLACES, the prospect of turning 60 acres of open space into a subdivision of 150 homes usually generates instant opposition. Neighbors of C. Earle Mace's Baltimore Airpark in northeastern Baltimore County seem resigned, however, to losing this airstrip to new housing.

"Earle wants to get everything out of it he can," one resident told Sun reporter Jay Apperson, "and you can't hate him for that."

Perhaps Mr. Mace's neighbors understand that the time to have opposed such a project was years ago before the Honeygo growth plan was adopted. As part of a designated growth area, the Airpark represents one of the larger parcels on which developers can build houses. As soon as the necessary infrastructure is in place, development can begin.

Neighbors may also understand that this landing strip, now used primarily for flight instruction, is an anachronism. Nationwide, owners and pilots of small planes have been abandoning these small airports for more technologically sophisticated fields with longer runways and more services. Even if Mr. Mace wanted to continue to operate his 2,200-foot-long airstrip, it is too short to handle multi-engine corporate aircraft that comprise a large proportion of general aviation traffic.

The neighbors may also sympathize with Mr. Mace's desire to realize the highest price for his land. Land that he and his wife purchased three decades ago for $130,000 is now worth as much as $3 million -- but only if housing is built on it. Longtime property owners who are likely to realize large profits should they sell might not want to appear hypocritical.

Once housing replaces the air strip, this section of the county will lose one of its distinguishing features, visible from Interstate 95, and a significant swath of open space. For many suburbanites, this would be reason to gird for battle. In this neighborhood, a sense of outrage is hard to detect.

Pub Date: 4/22/99

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