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Judge denies planned controversial 19-house subdivision in Catonsville

A Baltimore County administrative law judge has denied a developer’s plan to build 19 houses on a narrow residential street in Catonsville, calling community concerns over traffic and environmental impact “justifiable” and writing that the development would impact their quality of life.

The plan, dubbed Davis Farms, was proposed by Ellicott City-based Tri-Star Development on 21 acres at the end of Maple Avenue, a rustic road off of Catonsville’s main corridor Frederick Road lined with around 42 homes, according to residents’ estimates.

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Neighbors widely opposed the project, saying the new homes would overburden the street with added traffic, worsen dangerous conditions at Maple Avenue’s intersection with Frederick Road and potentially exacerbate flooding by producing more stormwater runoff.

In his written decision, Administrative Law Judge Paul Mayhew pushed back on the developer’s assertion that increasing new vehicle trips on the road by almost 50% was “insignificant.”

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Traffic volume and congestion there “are already horrible,” wrote Mayhew, noting that Frederick Avenue’s two closest intersections with traffic signals, at North Rolling Road and South Rolling Road, currently operate at a level of service “D,” a grade that indicates the severity of traffic backup.

Mayhew also noted with concern the proximity of the proposed development to a floodplain and Patapsco Valley State Park, which saw heavy damage during record storms in 2016 and 2018. He cited the “devastating flood damage” as a result of those storms in nearby Ellicott City, which some officials say was made worse because of the area’s overdevelopment and loss of forest buffer.

The development, once completed, also would further strain district schools, Mayhew wrote. Nearby schools that would be affected include Hillcrest Elementary, Catonsville Middle and Catonsville High.

“Some of the issues raised by the community are perhaps not, in and of themselves, enough to warrant the denial of the development plan,” he wrote. But those “issues become significant in the aggregate.”

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Tri-Star Development still may appeal the decision to the county Board of Appeals.

Representatives of Tri-Star Development did not attend the hearing with the administrative law judge earlier this month and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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