Neighbors opposing new houses seek to delay decision

July 08, 2006|By LAURA BARNHARDT | LAURA BARNHARDT,SUN REPORTER

On behalf of Towson-area residents opposed to a plan to build nearly four dozen new houses near a golf course, a lawyer asked yesterday for a delay in hearings on the proposal until Baltimore County officials can analyze how a new law designed to prevent school crowding might affect the project's approval.

Although the hearing before a county zoning commissioner is scheduled to continue Friday, the request comes at a time when residents opposed to 46 new houses planned by the Country Club of Maryland and the club members race toward a conclusion to the battle that's been going on for more than a year.

Some residents say they fear increased traffic, school crowding and drainage problems from the new development.

Club members have said that by selling the homes - grouped in twos - they will be able to afford to make repairs on their golf course and restore a portion of a stream that runs through their nearly 160-acre property.

Residents of the Idlewylde neighborhood created a community plan that would limit the density of the country club's development and create additional buffers between the new and old houses in the area, but it's unclear whether it will be adopted in time to make a difference.

Baltimore County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina is hoping that the community plan can be adopted into the county's master plan before the club has county zoning approval and necessary permits for their development.

In February, the county revised its formula for calculating a proposed development's impact on schools. But the county's Office of Planning is still trying to incorporate the new formula into its process of determining whether to recommend a new development.

During yesterday's hearing, a lawyer for the residents opposed to the project, J. Carroll Holzer, said, "To leave this open on a critical issue such as school impact, is prejudicial. The residents have a right to know what the regulations are and how the planning office is applying them in this case."

A lawyer for the club, Lawrence E. Schmidt, argued yesterday that the development, which will be restricted to owners age 55 and older, wouldn't likely generate any new children at the area's public schools.

"It wouldn't exempt families with school-age children from buying," said Schmidt. But, he said, the club added the age restriction to lessen the number of additional students in the area schools.

Zoning Commissioner William J. Wiseman said he would rule on Holzer's objection when the hearing continues Friday.

County environmental officials also said they would wait until next week before deciding whether to recommend the project because they hadn't finished reviewing the club's revised storm water management and forest conservation plans.

Concerned about the loss of open space and new houses' impact on a nearby deteriorating stream, elected officials have tried unsuccessfully to stop the project by offering to purchase the development rights on the property.

Jack McWilliams, who owns the nearby 12-acre Maxalea landscaping company property and lives there, said he has offered to create a 100-foot buffer, including planting trees - at his expense - if the club withdraws 14 of the proposed houses from its plans. In exchange, McWilliams said, the community groups have said they would not oppose the construction of the remaining 32 houses proposed. He said the club still wants to be paid for the lots.

Schmidt said yesterday the club and community were still negotiating.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

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