Developer agrees to a smaller Shelley's Fields

May 03, 2007|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,sun reporter

The children will get to play on new fields. The developer will build houses. Yet, trees will be preserved, and fewer cars will travel the rural roads.

As part of a tentative agreement between a northern Baltimore County developer and a nearby community association, the Shelley's Fields athletic complex will be scaled back. And one of the most contentious aspects of the original plan, a large indoor arena, has been scrapped.

The two sides unveiled the details of their settlement at a hearing before the county's deputy zoning commissioner yesterday.

The community group has agreed to drop its legal challenge to the project, meaning the athletic fields could be built faster.

"It's a compromise everyone can live with," Lawrence E. Schmidt, the lawyer representing the Hereford Zone Recreation and Parks Council, said yesterday after the hearing.

Randy Shelley, owner of the 153.8-acre parcel about five miles east of Interstate 83 off Middletown Road, received a change in a zoning designation on the property in 2004 and had agreed to donate land and money for a recreational complex.

Although many residents agreed that local youth teams need the athletic fields, development is often a source of debate in the area.

Some residents were upset by the scale of the recreational complex, which was originally proposed to include a 32,000-square-foot indoor facility, six fields and nearly 600 parking spaces. They were concerned about the project's potential impact on traffic and storm water management and the loss of undeveloped land.

As part of the deal, Shelley will build 20 homes. Eighteen of them will be on 1.5-acre plots, down from 19 homes originally proposed. An additional two houses will be built closer to the recreational complex on property currently zoned for agricultural preservation, the lawyers said.

According to the new proposal, the number of parking spaces is being trimmed from 591 to 338. Because the arena won't be built, there will be no winter activities at the complex, reducing the number of cars traveling along Middletown Road during those months.

"This is a significant compromise," said Dr. Barbara A. Cochran, a local internist who has protected her nearby land from development. "As far as we're concerned, this is a win."

A 56-acre portion of Shelley's Fields near the recreational complex will be preserved, blocking future development, said J. Carroll Holzer, the attorney for the Freeland Community Association.

"That was one of the community's bigger concerns - what happened if the county wanted to expand and put in 10 more baseball fields at some point," said Holzer. "All of the environmental concerns are satisfied by this settlement."

Andy Rathgeber, president of the Freeland Community Association, said the residents also feared that if the arena had been approved, a precedent would be set to allow other large buildings to be constructed in areas zoned for agricultural preservation.

Not all residents are happy with the revised Shelley's Fields project. One preservation group, the Freeland Legacy Alliance, had not agreed as of yesterday to drop its opposition.

The revised development is also subject to the approval of county officials.

But without a court challenge by the Freeland Community Association, Shelley said, the local sports teams probably would be able to use the fields much faster.

The compromise, he said, "gets the kids playing soccer and lacrosse sooner."

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