Residents who live near the former Chestnut Ridge Country Club and golf course are once again fighting to preserve the sprawling Lutherville property, where a developer wants to build 85 luxury homes.
Last year, the Baltimore County Council voted to drastically reduce the number of homes that could be built on the 230-acre site off Falls Road — the largest contiguous piece of land for miles around.
But now a developer who had bought the land before that vote is asking the county to overturn the decision, arguing it is being unfairly denied the ability to build on its property. Currently, the builder is limited to nine homes on the land.
At a planning board hearing this week, residents urged officials to protect the land, saying it is environmentally sensitive. The planning board will make a recommendation to the Board of Appeals, which will decide on the developer's request.
The open space enhances people's quality of life, said Vickie Foster, who lives near the property and said she remembers when the golf course was a farm.
"[The developer] is not going to have to live with the results of his buildings," she said.
The financially troubled country club, established in the 1950s, closed in late 2011. A few months later, CR Golf Club LLC, a company associated with Timonium developer Cignal Corp., bought the land.
The property is home to headwaters of Dipping Pond Run, a tributary of the Upper Jones Falls. Teresa Moore of the Valleys Planning Council called the County Council's vote to protect the land from development "a deliberate and well-thought-out decision" to protect the county's water resources.
In the petition, the developer's attorney argues that the new zoning designation is out of step with surrounding properties, which are designated for rural residential development. He also argues that the county has long intended for the property and others like it to be available to accommodate a projected increase in population.
At the planning board hearing, David Thaler of the engineering and planning firm D.S. Thaler & Associates, which is representing the developer, called the new zoning configuration in the area "almost bizarre."
"It's nonsensical and doesn't comply with any planning principle," he said.
During the county's zoning review last year, county planning staff and the planning board had both recommended keeping the zoning as it was when the company purchased the land, which could allow more than 100 homes on the property. But Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat whose district includes the golf course, sided with residents who wanted to protect the property from residential development.
The planning staff has again recommended the previous zoning. The planning board's recommendation is expected next month
CR Golf Club LLC sued the County Council in county Circuit Court last year over its zoning decision. According to the lawsuit, the developer wanted to build about 85 luxury homes, but the new designation limited the number of homes that could be constructed there to nine.
In May, a judge dismissed the lawsuit after the county argued that the development company should have exhausted the county's administrative appeals process before going to court, said Adam Rosenblatt, an attorney for the county.