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Catonsville councilman requests stricter zoning on Rolling Road Golf Club land

A look at the par 4, #18 green. Weekly feature for the Baltimore Sun online editions spotlighting golf courses in the Baltimore Metro region. This stop is at Rolling Road Golf Club in Catonsville, MD, Baltimore County.
A look at the par 4, #18 green. Weekly feature for the Baltimore Sun online editions spotlighting golf courses in the Baltimore Metro region. This stop is at Rolling Road Golf Club in Catonsville, MD, Baltimore County. (Jeffrey F. Bill / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Baltimore County Councilman Tom Quirk has requested a zoning change that would limit the number of homes that could be built on the Rolling Road Golf Club property if it were to be sold.

The submission asks for zoning on the 94-acre Catonsville plot to be reduced to just one home per acre, the lowest residential density Baltimore County allows. The land is currently zoned to allow for up to 3.5 homes per acre.

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The request, if approved, would cut the number of homes allowed there by more than 50%, Quirk said.

Quirk said he is “paying attention to” the backlash from Catonsville residents against the golf club board’s preliminary plans to sell its Hilltop Road property, and relocate to state-owned parkland on Frederick Road, currently leased by the proprietors of the Patapsco Horse Center.

The golf club board is working with Ribera Development to relocate, but “we don’t have a ‘for sale’ sign” staked out on the property, said golf club president Rick Sovero.

For the club to move, a majority of its 300 members must vote in favor of relocating. That vote hasn’t taken place yet and there’s no timeline for when it may, according to Sovero.

If the club can’t move to build more amenities for its members, “we are very happy, we are financially secure where we are,” Sovero said.

John Stamato, president of Ribera Development, in October floated options to sell the golf club land to be developed for housing or retail space by various nearby institutions, including the University of Maryland, Baltimore County or the neighboring Catonsville High School.

A Public Information Act request returned no UMBC records regarding plans to purchase the golf club’s land.

“I’m not trying to strip them of their value, just trying to reduce the density” if the property were to be sold for residential development, he said.

Stamato declined requests for comment.

During an Oella community meeting in October, Catonsville residents expressed concern about the added burden of traffic if the golf club property were to be heavily developed.

“I don’t think it’s the right place for high density development,” Quirk said, noting the potential for more congested roadways.

Developing the land for commercial use would require the district councilman to propose a planned unit development for the property, and must be approved by the Baltimore County Council.

“I’d much rather see that land continue to be used as a golf course, or as a park,” Quirk said.

Even if the club property were to be sold, Baltimore County zoning regulations on the horse farm land would make development there difficult, with most of the land protected under rural conservation zoning, Quirk said. Parts of the 200-acre parcel are zoned to allow one residential home per acre and large-scale commercial development.

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Rural conservation “expressly forbids golf courses,” Quirk wrote to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in a letter shared with Baltimore Sun Media.

Transferring the lease, renewed in February by Patapsco Horse Center proprietor Terry Fram and set to expire in 2040, would require approval by DNR and Board of Public Works.

In a letter addressed to DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Quirk said he opposes any lease reassignment from Fram to “anyone else without exceptional public input, full transparency, overwhelming public approval and engagement.”

“As of now, the department has not made any decisions or begun any actions regarding the Horse Center property,” Gregg Bortz, spokesman for Natural Resources, said in an email.

Ribera is required to donate an equivalent amount of acreage to the state in order to develop on state’s 206 acres. While Ribera has submitted potential properties for evaluation, DNR “hasn’t completed its response to that inquiry,” Bortz said.

Stamato previously said Ribera had identified acreage for a land swap adjacent to Patapsco Valley State Park.

Per the state’s review process, the Maryland Department of Planning would initiate a review of the land by state and local agencies, legislative committees, lawmakers and adjacent property owners. DNR would score the submitted land on its resources and potential for conservation. The General Assembly’s Legislative Policy Committee and Board of Public Works must then approve the land exchange.

Despite the lack of a vote from golf club membership, Stamato confirmed Ribera Development representatives told Fram the relocation would take at least a year, and possibly up to two years, if the local and state approvals are gathered.

Since Fram informed her roughly 30 boarders that she was considering options to move, “a good many” of them have vacated the horse center, but “nobody has been asked to leave,” she said. Fram did not say exactly how many had left.

Fram, who has lived on the Frederick Road farm for the last 35 years, is responsible for its maintenance and upkeep. Flooding in 2016 and 2018 damaged her barn, and last week, she said her roof began leaking.

Fram and her nonprofit — the Maryland Council for Special Equestrians, which leases 5 acres of farmland — received $120,000 in a 2017 state bond request submitted by Del. Pat Young to fix damaged facilities, but hasn’t used it, knowing she may leave.

If she stays, Fram said she’ll use the money, set to expire in four years, for repairs. If she moves, she’s considering two properties near Westminster with smaller and more manageable space, where she intends to continue special equestrian programs.

Despite the outcry from equestrian and environmentalist groups during a community meeting and their offers to help keep the Catonsville horse farm, Fram said, “I don’t need saving.”

“If you love this property the way I do, what better way to preserve it than a golf course?” Fram said, adding the club would be used by more Catonsville residents than would her horse farm, and would retain green space.

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