Club fights Idlewylde plan

May 30, 2006|By LAURA BARNHARDT | LAURA BARNHARDT,SUN REPORTER

Saying that a community plan for the Idlewylde neighborhood of Baltimore County was created to prevent a housing development at the Country Club of Maryland, a lawyer for the club is asking Baltimore County officials to reject the 49-page document.

The plan, created last month by a committee of residents, calls for planting more trees, improving storm drains and creating additional buffers between existing houses and new developments, including the one proposed by the club.

The community plan also calls for rezoning the club's remaining 143 acres, along with 12 acres of nearby property owned by a garden center, for less dense development in the future.

It is to be reviewed by the county's planning board next month and is to be considered by the Baltimore County Council in July for possible adoption into the county's master plan.

"The community document is clearly spot zoning that is not based on the welfare of the community in general, but rather on the private wishes of a select group of citizens," lawyer David K. Gildea said in a May 22 letter to the county's chief administrative officer and the county's attorney. "There is not one aspect of the purported master plan that is legitimate."

County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said officials were looking into the concerns.

J. Carroll Holzer, a lawyer representing Idlewylde, said the community plan doesn't prevent from the country club from developing its property.

"Plans are simply plans. They're simply guidance," Holzer said.

"This wasn't a bunch of neighbors in somebody's living room concocting some plan," said Holzer. "It was a formal process. County planning staff guided them through the process."

Holzer called Gildea's letter "a backdoor attempt to intimidate the administration and the County Council."

Gildea declined to respond, saying that he wasn't authorized by his clients to speak about the matter.

Officials with the country club said last year that they intended to build houses on a portion of the land they own to raise money to repair the 18-hole course and the stream that runs through it, reduce debt and ensure that the golf course has a future.

Neighbors objected to the development, saying they worry about the community's crowded elementary school, the strain the new housing might put on utility lines and sewer drains, increased traffic and the loss of open space.

Efforts by community activists to find funding to preserve the country club and efforts by County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina to enact a building moratorium in the area have failed to block the development.

Last month, the country club submitted to the county a plan to build 46 semidetached houses on nearly 14 acres.

The community plan was created during three months of meetings involving about a dozen residents and business owners in the area, said John Keenan, president of the Idlewylde Community Association. He said country club members attended the first several meetings to draft the plan but didn't attend subsequent meetings.

"I thought we were really reasonable," Keenan said. "We didn't say they couldn't develop. ... Other landowners agreed to down-zone to keep the community the way it is."

In his 15-page letter, Gildea cited court cases and county code, and said the community plan should have been created by county planners.

Gardina, a Perry Hall-Towson Democrat who represents Idlewylde, said that at least three other community plans that have been adopted into the county's master plan were created using the same process Idlewylde used.

"It's a perfectly legitimate plan, in my opinion," Gardina said.

A development conference on the country club's project is set for June 14, and a hearing officer is scheduled to review the development plan July 7.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

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