Like most of their counterparts, officials in Baltimore County face increased demand for services, deep cuts in state aid and a soft construction market that isn't bringing in the tax revenue it did a few years ago.
Thus, large-scale residential projects of high quality -- such as two proposed recently in the northern tier of the county -- are enticing.
One developer, Victor Posner's Security Management Corp., wants new zoning to build 3,000 town homes in Sparks. Designed to hug the hilly terrain near the Loch Raven Reservoir, the project is supposed to resemble a European hillside village.
About 10 miles north of there, another developer is also requesting a re-zoning to build up to 500 homes in Maryland Line. The hook: The plan includes two 18-hole golf courses that developer Robert L. Redcay said he would turn over to the county or a private group to run as public courses, filling a strong recreational need, county officials say.
The re-zoning process and approvals for either project could take the better part of this year, if they come at all.
The Security Management project, between York Road and the reservoir, threatens the town center concept Baltimore County crafted in the mid-'70s to channel high-density development into Owings Mills in the west and White Marsh in the east. It would, in essence, form a third, unplanned town center, threatening the peaceful, rural character of Hunt Valley north of Shawan Road.
Most serious of all, this development -- the biggest project outside Owings Mills New Town -- would jeopardize the metropolitan water supply. Taking such an enormous risk is unacceptable.
Also, York Road, which retains its serpentine,country-road roots as it winds toward the corporate parks of Hunt Valley, couldn't handle the vehicles generated by 8,000 more residents. Overcrowded schools are already creating a quandary in the northern section of the county.
Such intense development would overwhelm Sparks. Though there are high-density residential and industrial complexes nearby, the Posner project would open up long-protected woodlands to developers, at enormous public cost.
Similarly, the Mine Branch Golf Community proposed for Maryland Line would turn an agricultural region into a bedroom community, requiring added expenses for the county and radically altering the character of this north-county area.
Officials in Towson have prided themselves in adhering to their long-range blueprint that protects the county's green spaces. Now is not the time to cave in to the wishes of developers seeking to bulldoze portions of the valley and rural Baltimore County. Leaders in Towson, especially County Executive Roger Hayden and Councilman Charles "Dutch" Ruppersberger, must stand up to these developers and have the courage to "just say no."