The Langenfelder house was looking a little worn on its perch above Kingsville. Paint was peeling. An inside wall had collapsed. And sections of the porch were rotting.
Now, the 91-year-old farmhouse is a protected, historic structure with $800,000 worth of renovations. But the neighbors who pushed for landmark status for the house are still unhappy about a plan that, they say, would ruin the view.
Baltimore county officials have said that the owner of the property can't build two houses on the site because they would conflict with the area's master plan, which calls for preserving the "scenic vista" of the old estate on a hill above Belair Road.
"This is one of the first cases where the county's Office of Planning stood up for a `view-shed' to be protected," said J. Carroll Holzer, a lawyer representing the Kingsville Civic Association in opposing the property owner's appeal of the county decision. "It's a historically important case and engenders all sorts of passions."
Mark Storck, president of HNS Development Corp., which owns the property, says the two homes proposed for the site will not disturb the view.
"Kingsville thought by getting historic preservation status for the house, it would stop me from building," he said. "It's an unfortunate battle."
Kingsville area residents have long been concerned about the property's fate.
When large homes were being built on an area of the farm as part of the Longfield Estates development in the early 1990s, more than 500 residents wrote letters to the county asking that the view of the white stucco farmhouse be preserved.
In 1991, the county Planning Board recommended that development on the property be limited, to protect the view of the farmhouse from Belair Road. The developer of Longfield Estates was permitted to build 52 houses on the 194-acre property, but not in front of the stucco farmhouse.
The farmhouse and remaining 13 acres were sold last year to HNS after the death of 100-year- old Anne Thelma Langenfelder, a retired state roads employee who lived there.
Residents, concerned that the building might be torn down, sought protection for the property by requesting that the Colonial-revival-style house, once known as Rockwood, be added to Maryland's Historic Trust inventory of historic properties.
Earlier this year, the Kingsville Civic Association also successfully lobbied the Baltimore County Council for landmark status for the farmhouse.
Storck said he had always intended to restore the mansion. The historic landmark status granted by the county changed his plans for the windows, which he said he initially was going to replace but instead has restored.
Landmark status includes restrictions on alterations to the exterior of the structure but does not dictate what can be done inside.
As part of the eight-month renovation, the 5,700-square-foot home has refinished wood floors and new heating and cooling systems. It also has wiring for surround-sound audio systems, a wine cellar, a gourmet kitchen and renovated bathrooms, including one off the master bedroom with a fireplace and a small kitchen for making coffee.
The stone carriage house has been turned into a two-bedroom, loft-style guest home with a full kitchen. The outdoor pool has been refinished and a breezeway has been built to connect the main house with a three-car garage. An older garage on the property has also been renovated, Storck said.
The asking price for the property, which could include up to 10 acres, will likely be about $2.6 million, he said. Storck said he intends to put 5.8 acres of the site into a conservation easement, which would prevent that portion from being developed.
Although some in Kingsville oppose this plan to build two houses, Larry DeBaugh, president of the Longfield Homeowners Association, said he has no objections.
"I don't think they will block anyone's view," he said. Adding that he's pleased Storck has renovated the old home.
"He's done an excellent job preserving something important to the community," DeBaugh said.
The county's Board of Appeals began hearing arguments this month from the developers about why they should be able to build the two additional homes.
John Gontrum, a lawyer representing HNS, said there's a difference between the Office of Planning saying it doesn't support future development on the site and actual restrictions, covenants or an easement that would prevent development.
"If they wished to limit development, there are a lot of ways to do so," Gontrum said, adding that county planners had recommended that the prior owners of the Langenfelder property put remaining land in a conservancy, which had not been done.
Testimony and legal arguments in the appeals case continue next year, but no date had been set.