Developer moves Back River plan forward

February 21, 2007|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,sun reporter

A Pikesville developer is moving forward with plans to build 144 high-end townhouses on a waterfront parcel in eastern Baltimore County.

Mark C. Sapperstein won County Council approval last night to submit the project as a "planned unit development." The designation, while subjecting the plans to public hearings, allows Sapperstein to break some zoning rules if the project is determined to benefit the community.

Early plans call for clusters of six "villa-style" townhomes built on 37 acres on what once was Bauer's Farm in Edgemere. Some homes would be built on the banks of Back River.

Sapperstein estimated the houses would sell for $450,000 to $750,000.

"It's a great opportunity to show that developers can pay attention to that area," Sapperstein said. "That area's been overshadowed."

Several residents said they are wary of adding to the peninsula's population, mainly because of traffic problems on North Point Road - the only access.

"When they have an accident and it's pretty bad, you're stuck," Carol Kraemer, vice president of the Lynch Point Improvement Association, said in an interview. She added that parents fear Sparrows Point High School could become crowded.

But Kraemer, like other residents interviewed, said she likes what she has heard of the developer's plans.

Sapperstein has promised to build a 70-slip marina on Back River for use by surrounding communities. He said he would donate half of the 200-acre farm to a land conservancy. And he has pledged to help pay for an environmental cleanup in the area.

He also has agreed to refurbish a farmhouse, which was built in the 1700s, on Bauer's Farm Road.

Sapperstein said the increased population would barely be felt because, until a year ago, more than 50 "shore shacks" - run-down rentals - stood on the property. The houses have been razed.

Sapperstein bought the farm for $2.85 million from Earl E. Bauer in 2004, state property records show. The land had been in the Bauer family since 1940.

With last night's unanimous council vote, the project, called Shaw's Discovery, will be reviewed and ultimately approved or denied by the county Planning Board. The process would include several public hearings.

Councilman John A. Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat whose district includes the farm property, said before the meeting that the project would spur redevelopment.

"You get the contamination cleanup; you get the new houses, which in turn will generate tax dollars, and [you] maintain the open space of the farmland," Olszewski said.

Also last night, a contract on the county's purchase of a 26-acre farm in Kingsville for $1.05 million was withdrawn before a scheduled vote.

Several residents came out against the purchase last week after county officials said part of the land was being considered for the site of a school bus depot. Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county Republican whose district includes the site, said the council wanted to delay a vote on the contract in hopes that the school system will find another place for the bus lot.

The council, by a 6-1 vote, approved a plan to pay $95,775 to Hall Planning & Engineering Inc. for a pedestrian study in Towson. McIntire voted against the contract, calling the study a "waste of money."

The council also approved a county Police Department request for $550,000 to cover overtime expenses.

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