Frustration is building for many Halethorpe residents who strongly object to the Southern Crossroads project, a proposed development of nearly 200 town houses at the end of Maple Avenue.
A July development plan hearing was rescheduled after Judge Maureen Murphy issued a postponement due to revisions that were submitted by developer Mark Levy of H&H Rock Cos., the company that bought the property for $7.5 million in 2019.
The next hearing for the project is scheduled for Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. via Webex. Should more time be needed, the meeting will be continued on Sept. 24.
During the hearing in July, the judge listened to Levy’s attorney’s request for a continuance to resolve community concerns of stormwater management before she granting their request.
“The developer pulled a fast one,” said resident Casey Jackson, who has lived in the Halethorpe community for seven years. “His lawyer requested an extension, citing that they wanted to address community concerns around stormwater management — I think they were frankly ill-prepared for the slew of additional questions outside of stormwater management that we posed and we’re feeling really slighted.”
Levy, the developer, did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article.
The Halethorpe Improvement Association submitted a letter for the hearing that noted flooding has been a frequent issue over the years due to runoff from Maple Avenue. Solving that problem, the letter states, is integral to the success of any development near the property.
William Carter, the vice president of the association and a 29-year resident, said “runoff water on this property is going downhill.”
Community residents have also expressed issues with the project that include school crowding impact, parking capacity and environmental concerns.
Longtime resident Deanna Milnor expressed feelings of being “exploited” when she heard of the developer’s plans that initially took place in a virtual meeting with county and developer representatives last year.
“It was shocking and unbelievable that they would even attempt something like that here and no one was ready for that,” she said. “It's a lower income neighborhood, but we always enjoyed the natural beauty of it.”
Jerry Chen, project manager for development management for the Baltimore County Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections, led the virtual meeting. He read a list of concerns about the proposed Southern Crossroads project sent by the Halethorpe Improvement Association to PAI.
“There would need to be a lot of changes to the project before we would be happy about it being in our neighborhood,” HIA President Michael McAuliffe said last year.
Some residents like Tiffany Wiseman, who lives close to the proposed development, have concerns that the project would lead to crowding at local elementary and middle schools in the area.
Wiseman’s son attends Halethorpe Elementary School which is less than a half-mile from the site, while Relay Elementary School and Lansdowne Middle School are less than 3 miles away.
“When they did the school impact analysis ... they said that this development would not put schools over capacity,” she said. “They’re not considering the size of these classrooms, the classrooms are so tiny and they go by head count instead of the size of what’s inside.”
The school impact analysis for the project utilizes enrollment data from a single year of filing instead of looking at the projections, Jackson said.
“When the developer submits his plans they look at just that year, well this developer submitted his proposal during [the pandemic] which is clearly skewed,” Jackson said.
According to the association’s letter, enrollment data from Sept. 30, 2020, showed 302 full-time students at Halethorpe Elementary School and the previous year showed 365 full-time students, which indicates a change in enrollment due to the pandemic.
Longtime resident Mary Kokosi is concerned about the project bringing crowding, parking issues, and increased traffic in the neighborhood, which has narrow streets with no sidewalks.
“One hundred ninety-six town houses — that’s a minimum of maybe 400 or 500 people and 400 vehicles,” she said. “These streets are not commuter routes, people are going to be run over and killed.”
Chen said the county has looked at any potential traffic, parking and stormwater flooding impacts in the area.
“It is up to the developer to meet the code and regulations for this project,” he wrote in an email. “Parking is addressed by zoning and I don’t recall a parking variance requested by the developer. Currently, there are ongoing discussions with Department of Environment Protection and Sustainability on environmental issues prior to the next hearing.”
Jackson said the judge not only granted postponement in the hearing but also stated she wanted future concerns sent to the developer’s attorneys.
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“There was absolutely no mention for them to send any updates to us,” she said. “So that means communication isn’t going both ways.”