Growth at issue in White Marsh

Council awaits plan for area, is likely to extend construction moratorium

March 05, 2001|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

More bulldozers will rumble in the South Perry Hall/White Marsh area because Baltimore County officials have let a construction moratorium lapse while a plan for the region is being completed.

County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat, had requested a temporary halt on construction of all but the smallest subdivisions in the three-square-mile area west of White Marsh Mall more than a year ago. Scores of homes have been proposed in the quiet neighborhoods there, and he and residents are worried about clogged narrow country roads and lack of recreation space.

Bartenfelder asked that the ban remain in effect until a vision for the area could be created. The planning department promised to produce one in six months.

Six months stretched to a year and beyond. Tonight, the County Council will vote on extending the moratorium a third time -- until May 31. The plan is almost finished; the council will conduct a public hearing about the plan at 7:30 tonight and will vote in the next few weeks.

The previous extension expired Jan. 31. If the council votes tonight for another extension, it won't take effect until Friday. During the gap, property owners Charlotte and Margaret Wolf received a permit to begin preparing land along White Marsh Road for an 11-acre development with 26 homes.

When told about the Wolf project, Kathy Stumpfel, a computer programmer who has lived in the area for 30 years, replied: "I'm not surprised. ... I don't mind the development, but there has to be infrastructure to support it."

Bartenfelder expressed frustration that the plan wasn't finished sooner.

"I was promised that it was going to get done in time so that [the moratorium] wouldn't have to be extended, and there wouldn't be a gap," he said. The county planning department "needed to have a little more fire in their belly on this thing. It's the kindest way to put it," he said.

He said he hasn't seen a related and equally important document for the area: Design standards for construction that also are being completed by the planning office.

County planning Director Arnold F. Keller III said he never should have promised a six-month completion date for such a project and that he won't again.

"You cannot do a community plan in six months. It is impossible," Keller said. "It's really an 18-month process. If you want community involvement, there is no way you can do it in six months. Quite frankly, I should have known better. Yes, I'm guilty. I did what I did."

The Wolf property and several others are slated for development during the coming months. County and development industry officials predict the South Perry Hall/White Marsh area will boom because it is within a designated growth area and close to shopping and good schools.

"It's convenient, yet it is off the beaten track. You are somewhat secluded," said Larry Rosenberg, president of Mark Building Co., which received permits for the 105-lot Maple Ridge subdivision before the moratorium was enacted. The homes, priced between $200,000 and $265,000, are selling rapidly, he said.

"We were very happy we weren't caught in the moratorium, and we have a head start on the rest of the market," Rosenberg said.

The vision statement in the draft of the community plan calls for the South Perry Hall/White Marsh area to be a "suburban community comprised of quality development." The draft says that no building permits should be issued for new development on White Marsh Road or Bucks School House Road "until a traffic study is completed by the Department of Public Works."

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