Plan would block golf course homes

Moratorium backed by Gardina an effort to preserve open space at Towson club

October 05, 2005|By LAURA BARNHARDT | LAURA BARNHARDT,SUN REPORTER

A Baltimore County councilman said yesterday he is drafting legislation designed to prevent houses from being built at the Country Club of Maryland's golf course in Towson - at least temporarily.

The proposed moratorium on development on 170 acres that includes the golf course would stop the private country club from building 56 duplex houses on 16 acres of its land. The councilman, Vincent J. Gardina, said he would use the time to help find money to preserve the property as open space through the purchase of the club's development rights.

"The goal is twofold: It would give us a chance to look at strategies to protect the golf course," said Gardina, a Perry Hall-Towson Democrat. "And it would protect the communities around the golf course."

Residents in Stoneleigh, Idlewylde and other nearby neighborhoods have complained that the project would take valuable trees, exacerbate flooding problems along Herring Run, further crowd public schools and increase traffic congestion.

Some community leaders have been talking to conservancy groups and to state officials about whether any public or private money is available to buy the development rights to the 157-acre golf course.

The club, which is owned by its 600 members, previously rejected a $2 million offer from Baltimore County to buy the development rights to 90 acres and a $250,000 contribution toward stream restoration.

Club officials said the proposed development could raise at least $6 million for the club to reduce debt and to make repairs on the 18-hole course and along the section of Herring Run that runs through the property.

John Ashford, treasurer of the club, and Larry Schmidt, a lawyer for the club, declined to comment on Gardina's proposal yesterday.

John Keenan, president of the Idlewylde Community Association, and other residents said they were pleased with Gardina's proposal. Keenan said he hopes the property will be rezoned to restrict development in the next zoning cycle.

Gardina said that until recently he had been thinking only about the development proposal, rather than preserving the entire country club property. "You can change the zoning," he said. "But you can't take the value from the property and expect the golf course to survive."

Because the club's property is zoned to allow 3.5 houses per acre, if the club were sold now, 500 new houses could be built there, Gardina said.

"We don't want that to happen here," he said. "We want to preserve the country club."

The County Council has passed similar moratoriums on development in areas such as Carney and Parkville, said Thomas J. Peddicord Jr., the council secretary and attorney.

"The council has the authority to impose temporary controls on the issuance of building permits," Peddicord said.

Gardina said he has not decided how long to propose that a moratorium last. In addition to searching for funding to preserve the golf course as open space, he said, he would also use the time to urge the county to cover some of the expense of restoring the stream.

Donald I. Mohler III, a spokesman for Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., said it was premature to say whether the executive would support a moratorium because it hasn't been drafted. But, pointing to the county's prior offers to the club, Mohler said, "The county executive wants that land to remain open space."

Gardina said he will introduce legislation to establish a moratorium at the Oct. 17 council meeting.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

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