Bill would affect deals

Baltimore County considers reinstating quarry land authority

Arundel Corp. worried

Approved site plans may face extra review if policy is revised

July 19, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

In a move that could determine the fate of two huge real estate projects, the Baltimore County Council is considering overhauling how the county approves development at old quarry sites -- some of the county's prime real estate.

Council Chairman Kevin B. Kamenetz wants to change a 1984 law that took away the council's authority to approve development plans for closed quarries, which are among the last open spaces left for development in the county.

Kamenetz says that council members should have that authority because they have it over all other tracts in their districts.

"There should not be special rules for special people," said Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat. "The property owner who happens to own a quarry should have to go through the same rules as everybody else."

At stake are approved, multimillion-dollar developments for hundreds of homes and dozens of shops at two quarry sites owned by Arundel Corp.

"We're vitally concerned about this bill. There's an awful lot at stake," said John B. Howard, an attorney for Arundel.

Arundel won approval in 1985 to build 800 homes at the 286-acre Greenspring Quarry site along Greenspring Avenue. The homes would be scattered around a 500-foot-deep lake -- the deepest in Maryland.

The Hunt Valley company also received approval in January for 100 single-family homes, 120 townhouses, 256 apartments for the elderly, offices and an 80,000-square-foot village center around a lake at the 125-acre Delight Quarry site in Reisterstown.

Groundbreaking at the two sites is at least two to three years away, Howard said.

Kamenetz's bill would require that development plans for all nine quarries in the county be consistent with the county master plan, which is updated every 10 years and is scheduled for a council review by the end of the year. The bill is scheduled for discussion at a council work session July 27 and a vote Aug. 2.

County law requires only a planning board review of quarry reclamation plans. The law specifies that approvals remain in effect for 15 years and that they may be continually renewed by the planning board.

Kamenetz said that's part of the problem.

"The way the law reads, you could have a land-use decision that stays in effect for 30 years and not have any way to change it," Kamenetz said.

But Howard said the law enacted in 1984 gave quarry owners and their neighbors assurances about the type of development that would occur when quarries close.

"It gave everyone involved some peace of mind. People could be assured that they weren't going to have an auto recycling plant next door," he said.

Howard said neighbors of the sites were involved in the development of both plans, serving on advisory committees that approved the plans before they were submitted to the county planning board.

Robert Sellers, a lawyer who served on the Delight Quarry advisory committee, said neighbors met for months with Arundel officials and had their say in Arundel's reclamation plans in the early 1990s.

Howard said it took several reviews before the plan was submitted to the board for approval.

But he said if he had a chance to review the plans again, he would have fought harder to scale back the proposed development, given the amount of growth since the early 1990s in Owings Mills.

"I'm not sure we would have approved all the housing, considering all that's been allowed to go in around there since then," Sellers said.

Daniel E. Williard II, president of Arundel Corp., said that as part of the review process, the company agreed to millions of dollars worth of concessions, closing the quarries earlier than necessary to win community support for its plans.

The county should not change the rules and reject approved plans now that Arundel has spent "well into the millions" to fulfill those agreements, Williard said.

"We reached agreements, and we've fulfilled our obligations as part of those agreements," Williard said. "You have to ask if it's fair for the county to change the terms of agreements that we've already met and go back 15 years."

Arundel officials declined to put a cost on the plans, but acknowledged the developments are worth millions of dollars. Both sites are prime areas for housing developments because they offer lakes as attractions.

"This housing that we're talking about is strictly going to be upscale," Howard said.

Kamenetz said the bill is not aimed at Arundel's plans and that if it passes, the council might leave intact plans for both sites. But he said it is important that the council have power to review them.

"A lot more development has taken place that was not considered when the original plans were reviewed," he said. "You can't just look at land use in a vacuum, within a particular parcel. You have to consider the impact on the surrounding area."

Kamenetz faces opposition from a company with deep pockets.

Arundel Corp. owned about 1,000 industrially zoned acres scattered among a dozen sites in the Baltimore area when the company was sold in 1987 for $85 million.

The buyer, Florida Rock Industries Corp., of Jacksonville, Fla., reported $492 million in sales last year from 100 facilities nationwide that produce concrete products and mine and sell crushed stone, sand and gravel.

T. Bryan McIntire, the Republican who represents the Owings Mills neighborhoods near the Delight Quarry, said the bill has prompted Arundel Corp. to consider scaling back the number of houses planned for the quarry site.

He said he does not oppose the bill, but that negotiations with Arundel about its plans might be the best way to deal with the issue.

Pub Date: 7/19/99

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