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Skeptical Halethorpe residents attend a virtual community meeting on proposed Maple Avenue development

Southern Cross is a proposed development of 196 townhouses on the former Good Shepherd property in Halethorpe.
Southern Cross is a proposed development of 196 townhouses on the former Good Shepherd property in Halethorpe. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

Halethorpe residents concerned about a proposed development of nearly 200 town houses on Maple Avenue had a chance to attend a virtual meeting Thursday evening with county and developer representatives.

Jerry Chen, project manager for development management for the Baltimore County Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections (PAI), who led the meeting, read a list of concerns about the proposed Southern Crossroads project sent by the Halethorpe Improvement Association to PAI, which included incompatibility with the existing neighborhood, school overcrowding and stormwater management.

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The proposal calls for 196 town houses on a 72-acre tract at 4100 Maple Ave.

“There would need to be a lot of changes to the project before we would be happy about it being in our neighborhood,” said Michael McAuliffe, president of the association.

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Developed by Elkridge-based H&H Rock Cos., the project also would feature a convenience store and gas station, a dog park and a 116-unit hotel along Washington Boulevard. The site, which formerly housed Good Shepherd Services, a school and treatment facility center for adolescents, was sold to the company in 2019 for $7.5 million by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

The building would be razed to accommodate the project.

The 2 ½-hour virtual meeting included Brandon Rowe, project manager for Bohler Engineering, which provides land development consulting to developers and owners, and Howard Alderman, land-use and zoning attorney for Levin & Gann, P.A., a law firm based in Towson. .Residents, however, didn’t get the opportunity to speak during the meeting.

In August, a concept plan conference was held during which various departments, including the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, Department of Planning and PAI, reviewed the development plan.

Prior to the meeting, residents inundated PAI with letters expressing their concerns about the project.

Many wrote that they were concerned the project would disrupt their community. Some, like resident Tiffany Wiseman, worry that the project would lead to overcrowding at local elementary and middle schools — Halethorpe Elementary School is less than a half-mile from the site, while Relay Elementary School and Lansdowne Middle School are less than 3 miles away.

Prior to the meeting, someone submitted a question asking, “Where will the children go to school? Halethorpe and Relay are already just about at capacity. Halethorpe has trailers, this will provide a strain on our schools.”

Rowe responded: “They will go to Halethorpe Elementary, Arbutus Middle and Lansdowne High. We’ve done a preliminary school impact analysis which is required as a part of the development plan process and will be formally submitted to the county when we submit the development plan. All three of those schools remain under capacity with the projected development of this community as well as other approved developments in the area.”

In the chat someone asked, “[Why] can the lawyer talk, but the citizens not talk?”

And in the chat, Wiseman wrote, “You sure do not seem to care about the community, very basic answers with no actual answers.”

Prior to the meeting, McAuliffe, who has lived in the community for more than three decades, said residents are concerned about the project bringing crowding, flooding and increased traffic .

After the organization learned of the project, it posted detailed information about it on its website and held a virtual meeting to present the plans to the community.

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Wiseman said, “The way it is currently laid out it is basically a high-density residential area. There are going to be so many houses crammed into one space.”

After learning of the project, she and her children went door-to-door handing out 400 fliers to those in the surrounding community to inform residents of how the development could impact their neighborhood.

She said the streets in the community are already narrow and additional houses would make it more difficult for firetrucks and school buses to pass.

“There is no way to expand the street because there are houses right there,” she said.

McAuliffe said his desire is that the community’s input will lead to changes.

“I hope the outcome would be that this project will be upgraded, and the community would be considered on this project,” he said. “I want the community to be heard and the developer to consider the citizens' thoughts on this. [We want] a project that will enhance the community rather than detract from it.”

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