Closing of Oakleigh Road was necessary, residents say

Some residents say a controversial housing development may be compounding erosion of Oakleigh Road.

Cromwood-Coventry residents and their elected officials say there is no doubt in their minds that Baltimore County was justified in closing an eroding stretch of Oakleigh Road in Parkville.

"The county made the right call," said Baltimore County Councilman David Marks.

But there is less agreement on when, if ever, the one-way road will reopen. Marks stressed at a meeting with residents Monday that closing the road, uphill from Cromwell Bridge Road, is only temporary, and that his goal is to reopen it as quickly as possible. But resident Elizabeth "Ann" Collier, who did not attend the meeting, was less optimistic as she walked past the barricades and into a wooded area late Monday afternoon, pointing to holes in the pavement and an eroding guard rail.

Collier said she would buy a reporter dinner if the road reopens. More likely, she predicted, "It's going to make a nice dog-walking area or nature preserve."

The county Oct. 21 closed a roughly quarter-mile portion of the road between Cromwell Bridge and Rushley roads, citing a safety hazard because of extensive erosion. No timetable was set for reopening it.

Residents had called for the stretch of road to be closed. The Cromwood-Coventry Community Association board asked in an Aug. 17 letter to Marks that the road be closed "until satisfactory repairs can be made," and that the county make the road work a priority in the county's capital budget.

"The side of the road is falling into a ravine," said resident John Scott, who attended the meeting with Marks along with residents Sharon Opdyke and community association president Mark Yeager.

"There are sinkholes all over the place," Opdyke said.

Yeager said that at an association meeting in August, a vote was taken on whether to ask the county to close the road.

"Everybody raised their hand to close it," he said.

But the closing of the road is not without its downside. Residents said it will limit their access to the community, in an area already congested at nearby Joppa Road and Perring Parkway, and will force them to use Littlewood Road, Jenifer Road or Mountain Avenue. Closing Oakleigh Road will also limit emergency personnel in the event of accidents on Cromwell Bridge Road, Opdyke said.

That makes reopening Oakleigh Road even more important, Marks said.

"I think it's an emergency situation," he said.

Also attending the meeting were representatives of Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., who said they would install erosion control measures in BGE's right of way in the community, which is also dealing with stormwater issues. But that issue is separate from the issue of closing Oakleigh Road, said BGE spokesman Aaron Koos.

Marks said the County Council is considering a "no-build" zoning classification near utility lines, which could be applied to the Cromwell Bridge area.

Related controversies

Some residents said they suspect that the ongoing development of a subdivision of 33 Ryland Homes at nearby Littlewood and Rushley roads and related construction traffic has compounded erosion of Oakleigh Road. The project is already controversial because of concerns that it could bring as many as 340 new cars into the community with its narrow roads.

And a related controversy came to light last week, when an attorney representing CalAtlantic Group, Inc., which succeeded Ryland in a recent merger, wrote a "notice to cease and desist" letter Oct. 22 to resident Robert Perkins, who lives near the 14.5–acre development. Perkins, 86, has posted signs outside his house, complaining about potential traffic, and he said Monday that the site, which already contains several model homes, should never have been developed because of its limited access.

The letter by attorney George Brown, of the Baltimore law firm Kramon & Graham, P.A., accuses Perkins of posting signs on his property "in an attempt to disparage CalAtlantic and to discourage potential home buyers from purchasing CalAtlantic homes."

The letter threatens to sue Perkins if he does not remove the signs with 48 hours of receiving the letter. Perkins said he painted over one sign but has left several others as is.

"I think it's terrible that (CalAtlantic is) challenging Mr. Perkins' First Amendment right" to free speech, Collier said.

"I've been against the overdevelopment that's going to cause all this traffic," Perkins said.

Another resident, Pam Frock, of Rushley Road, said her house floods because of the development.

Brown could not be reached for comment and an on-site sales counselor declined to comment or to give her name.

Yet another neighbor, whose house is next door to the development, has affixed a handwritten sign to a tree. It says, "Ground zero. Marshy lawns. Wet basements. Bad buy."

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