320 homes planned at Westminster golf course

October 12, 2006|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

A Manchester developer plans to build 320 upscale homes for senior citizens on a golf course in Westminster just as state officials have frozen development in the rapidly growing Carroll County seat until new water sources are secured.

Although the development is in the early planning stages, residents living around the 27-hole Wakefield Valley Golf Course and in the adjacent Carroll Lutheran Village retirement community have voiced opposition to the project.

"It affects the people at Carroll Lutheran pretty badly," said Del. Tanya T. Shewell, whose home borders the golf course. "When you buy your property presuming to live on a golf course, when someone comes in and shuts down nine holes, that really is a rude awakening."

Developer Martin K. P. Hill, of Woodhaven Building and Development, said he would preserve 18 holes of the golf course.

His plan to develop 167 acres could benefit Westminster, Hill said, because the city could gain access to groundwater now used to irrigate the golf course.

"I'm confident the city will be able to resolve their water issues over time," Hill said. "This is not a project that is going to bring 320 units online that quickly. You're looking at a 10-year time frame here."

The Carroll County Health Department has stopped signing building permits in the city of 18,000 residents because of the water deficit. The Maryland Department of the Environment has said the city cannot meet existing demand of 3 million gallons a day even during minor droughts.

Residents of a newer section of Carroll Lutheran Village, called Wakefield Overlook, are particularly incensed about the proposed development because their homes face the affected nine holes.

"We have beautiful homes overlooking a golf course that would now be overlooking a high-density development," said Geary Milliken, president of Carroll Lutheran Village, whose board of trustees unanimously opposes the Wakefield Valley development.

Westminster City Council President Roy L. Chiavacci has recused himself from voting on the proposal because he serves as Carroll Lutheran's vice president. Mayor Thomas K. Ferguson declined to comment until the planning commission votes on the proposal.

The project goes before Westminster's planning and zoning commission tonight. City officials expect numerous residents to speak at the 7 p.m. meeting at the County Office Building.

Not all Wakefield Valley residents are convinced that the golf course irrigation wells will meet the demand of 320 additional residences.

Copps Branch, which flowed through the course in the 1970s and early 1980s, is now a dry bed until it rains, according to a letter Wakefield Valley residents D. Wayne and Darleen Weller sent to Ferguson this week.

Residents also worry that development could bring more traffic.

"We just have a little two-lane road out there," Shewell said.

But senior citizens don't clog roads the way families do, Hill said, and they tend to drive during off-peak hours.

Hill has one other project in Westminster, but the lots have yet to be recorded. The company plans to build 189 homes in the Bolton Hill subdivision, off Meadow Branch Road between Routes 140 and 97.

Because of the city's water shortage, however, Carroll's health department had also stopped signing new record plats -- which depict the boundaries of individual lots in new subdivisions -- in June.

Hill said he would like to team up with Carroll Lutheran Village on the Wakefield Valley project to share facilities and services.

"The water issues will work out over time," Hill said. "We realize that we can't build one house until the water issues are resolved, but that's an issue everyone has."


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