A developer is asking Baltimore County for new zoning to enable it to build near Sparks 3,000 townhouses and condominiums that would be designed to look like an Italian hillside village.
If it is approved, the development would be the county's second-largest, behind the 5,000-house Owings Mills New Town now being built. The plan was presented to high-ranking county officials in a briefing Friday.
The county is in its quadrennial comprehensive rezoning process, in which changes may be sought for any parcel. Final decisions will be made by County Council members in October.
Developer Victor Posner's Security Management Corp. wants a hilly 215-acre tract east of York Road and south of Phoenix Road rezoned from watershed protection to the highest apartment density allowable.
The houses would be built on about 100 acres east of the Jessops Methodist Church next to the Loch Raven watershed. Twelveacres west of the church would be donated to the county.
Community leaders, who were aware that some rezoning had been proposed for the site, were surprised -- and displeased -- to learn that the plans called for high-density development.
"Holy smoke!" exclaimed Gilbert R. Whye, president of the Quaker Bottom Community Association, upon hearing of the size of the project. "I think it's ridiculous."
Paul Hupfer, president of the Sparks-Glencoe Community Association, said the developer had mentioned a plan for maybe 40 houses on the site to his group several months ago.
"We have no schools or roads," he said. "We feel it's very unfortunate that the county's been approached without the community."
North county citizens' groups have been crusading for years against growing congestion from new houses and businesses being built in the York Road corridor from Cockeysville north.
Architects for the Columbia Design Collective, which designed the plan, envision a tightly packed series of stacked townhouses and condominiums that will emphasize the pedestrian and hide motor vehicles, using garages for nearly every unit.
The units, which would sell for $150,000 to $250,000, would be clustered around grassy courtyards and wooded pathways.
Several things would have to happen before the houses could be built.
York Road would have to be widened to four lanes from Shawan Road north to Loveton. A new interchange at Interstate 83 near Thornton Road, already planned by the state, would have to be built.
The Urban-Rural Demarcation Line, which defines the areas where public water and sewerage are available, would have to be changed to bring utility service to the land. The property is just across the line.
The county also would have to find a way to accommodate the 1,100 new schoolchildren the project would generate by 2010. All the elementary schools in the north county area are crowded.
The developers are seeking the support of County Executive Roger B. Hayden's administration to get a leg up on the rezoning process.
In the next few weeks, the administration will make recommendations on all zoning changes to the Planning Board. Then the board will make recommendations to the County Council.
A favorable recommendation from the administration could go a long way toward influencing both the board and Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd, who, like all council members, gets the final call on rezoning requests in his district.
Planning Director P. David Fields said he was impressed with the plan, but suggested that the county recommend retaining the watershed protection zoning for now, while the proposal is studied further.
Mr. Posner's lawyer, G. Scott Barhight, and Fritzi K. Hallock, a researcher for the Legg Mason Realty Group, contend there is demand for more housing in the north-central part of the county because jobs are available in the area.