Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is building what might be the biggest house in Maryland on the crest of an historic estate in a bucolic part of Baltimore County that conservationists and wealthy residents have fought to preserve from development for more than 50 years.
Plank's Brooklandville home would span nearly 35,000 square feet, with eight bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, four powder rooms, an indoor pool, an elevator and four-car garage, according to a permit application submitted to the county last month. The project is expected to cost $6.6 million.
The Planks, who currently live nearby in a nearly 15,000-square-foot home renovated in 2009, intend to use the home as a private residence, said Tom Geddes, managing partner of Plank Industries, which oversees Plank's non-Under Armour investments.
The family acquired the 65-acre Greenspring Valley Road property using a limited liability company in 2011 for $2.8 million.
To some, plans for the new hilltop villa — which would be more than half the size of the 54,000-square-foot White House — are not in keeping with a part of Baltimore County known for convenient-to-the-city country life, with winding roads, cow pastures and lush horse farms that reflect decades of organized resistance by wealthy residents against housing sprawl.
Neighbor and longtime preservationist Douglas Carroll, 65, said he is worried about the impact such a large project will have on the environment and the relatively rural setting.
"It's just a push from every side and this is just another push, and there will be other wealthy people following suit," he said. "What are the limits of one person's ability to impact a community that's tried to orient itself around preservation and open land?"
The Planks plan to place an easement on the land, designed to maintain open space, by the end of the year, Geddes said.
"These easements are really important for preserving open space in the valley, and the Planks are very happy that their land will be protected in perpetuity in this way," Geddes wrote in an email. "The house itself will occupy only a small percentage of the property, and all of the land from the top of the hill down to the road will look the same now and into the future."
An 1898 mansion on the property has been razed to make way for new construction, with dirt excavated from the property trucked to Sagamore Farm, a 530-acre horse racing estate in Glyndon that Plank has owned since 2007.
Plank has hired two New York firms to work on the estate: Ike Kligerman Barkley Architects, known for luxurious residences, and landscape designer Hollander Design.
Baltimore's Patrick Sutton, who also is working on Plank's new hotel in Fells Point, is in charge of interior design.
Carroll, whose lineage traces to one of Maryland's foremost colonial families, said many people are hesitant to speak out about the project because of Plank's influence as head of one of Baltimore's most successful companies, an athletic apparel brand expected to top $4 billion in sales this year.
Trucks heaped with dirt were the first sign of the project's scale, and neighbors want to know about its design, he said.
"We have no idea what this thing will look like," Carroll said. "We know it will be big and we know that impact is not a consideration, considering that there's been months and months of … trucks."
The mansion will be set among trees and occupy a small part of the property, Geddes said. The excavation is nearly complete.
The county does not notify neighbors of plans for single-family homes, and Plank's proposed single-family dwelling is in compliance with all laws and regulations, said Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County, which in March granted environmental variances for the project.
Elizabeth Buxton, executive director of the Valleys Planning Council, which has stewarded preservation of the valley since the 1960s, said the organization has not taken a position on the project. Buxton said Plank belongs to the group, while its website lists Carroll as a board member.
"I'm sure whatever Kevin Plank builds will be a landmark one day, and I have all confidence that he is doing something that will enhance the area and is taking into account all the environmental impacts," she said.
The former home on the property was recognized by the Maryland Historical Trust in 1979 for "its setting and ... its superb details," such as mahogany panels and a sunroom with a hand-laid mosaic tile floor.
It was last occupied by the Bunting family, descendants of the founder of Noxzema Chemical Corp., who used the sunroom for birdwatching, kept horses and rolled up rugs to host large dance parties, said Mary Catherine Bunting, 78, who lived on the property as a teenager and still resides nearby.
Bunting said after her mother died, the family donated the property to Opus Dei but approached the Planks after the religious organization did not want it.
"That's always sad when you see [demolition], but it was old and I'm sure he wants all big and beautiful and modern, which of course it wasn't," she said, adding that she is not worried about the plans for Plank's mansion.
"Of course it's going to be large," she said, "but it's a big piece of property."