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Hearing on Cromwell Ridge development is extended

The battle being waged by Cromwood-Coventry residents against a 34-unit development in their neighborhood went before a county administrative hearing officer this month and is scheduled to continue in the second week of March.

"We continue to fight on," said Ann Collier, a resident and treasurer of the Cromwood-Coventry Community Association. "The pockets of our neighborhood are only getting deeper."

Residents have been fighting against the Cromwell Ridge development, which would be built by Craftsmen Developers on 14 acres off Rushley Road in their neighborhood just off East Joppa Road, since plans were submitted in April 2010.

But as formal proceedings began Feb. 9, representatives from county agencies went before administrative judge Lawrence Stahl to confirm their departments' approvals for the project, including the Office of Planning and the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability.

Don Muddiman of the Baltimore County Fire Department gave his blessing for the project as well, though he noted the development had received approval to have cul-de-sacs that are 102 feet wide instead of the more standard 120 feet.

Collier said the neighborhood, which is being represented by attorney Carroll Holzer, will seek to poke holes in those approvals.

The community has challenged whether the development fits the character of the neighborhood, and has said traffic and other factors, including what they see as the loss of the area's "park-like" setting, should be factored into the plan's approval process.

But John Gontrum, attorney for Craftsmen Developers, said the development plan is in conformance with the property's zoning and intended use, and that the departmental blessings are a good sign for the development.

"The way I have interpreted the legislation that rules these plans is, if you meet the county standards … then your plan should be approved," Gontrum said. "One of the purposes of the development regulations is we all play by the same rules.

"It's up to the witnesses and the community to show that the county people made mistakes," he said.

During the sessions Feb. 9 and 10, witnesses discussed landscape features, whether some of the parcel falls under wetland protections and other issues.

Among those testifying was Stacey McArthur, landscape architect at D.S. Thaler and Associates, the firm that worked on plans for the development. She said there would be 340 plantings to replace foliage that will be removed as part of the development.

The two days allotted for the case proved to be not enough. Both parties agreed on a continuance that will begin March 8 and continue March 9, 12 and 13, if necessary.

Craftsmen acquires, develops and sells residential and commercial properties in the mid-Atlantic region, according to the company website.

Gontrum has said previously that at Cromwood, the houses would be about $400,000 and would be built as they sell.

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