A proposal to build 35 single-family houses in the Cromwell Valley has been dealt a setback because of questions about whether the project conflicts with the Baltimore County's master plan for development.
The property, on 26 acres off Cromwell Bridge Road just north of Loch Raven High School, is zoned for one house an acre. But the master plan calls for preserving undeveloped portions of the Cromwell Valley for open space and park land.
The potential conflict was pointed out last week in a report the Office of Planning submitted to the County Review Group, a two-person team that reviews all new developments to see if they comply with regulations.
The review group referred the issue to the Planning Board, which could bring to a head the long-unanswered question of whether the master plan supersedes the comprehensive zoning plan passed into law by the County Council in 1988.
The proposed development, known as brookview farms 3, would be built on one of the largest pieces of property left in the valley that could be developed.
At a hearing, about 20 valley residents voiced their opposition to the project at the County Review Group.
The residents said it would be a blemish on the scenic view of the valley from Cromwell Bridge Road. They said it would be the only concentration of houses along the road which runs along the eastern boundary of the valley.
The residents also raised concerns about added traffic to the already commuter-clogged road and the impact of a 35-house development on Hampton Elementary School, which is already 423 percent over capacity.
The county and area residents are close to protecting more than half of the valley from development. About one-third of the 700-acre valley is developed. The rest makes up the only significant open space in the greater Towson area.
David M. Meadows, attorney for developer C. Franklin Eck Jr., said that the master plan itself indicates it would not supersede existing zoning maps.
"The master plan is only a guide, a planning tool the county may use," Mr. Meadows said. "We think the proposed development can fit in well with the valley."
"We've already had too much development in the valley and this would further spoil what we are trying to preserve," said Lillian A. Jenifer, president of Campaign to Save Cromwell Valley Inc.
But Arthur W. Sherwood, founder of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and valley landowner said, "The CRG's decision to refer the matter to the Planning Board is about all we could have hoped for."
Mr. Eck has built Brookview Farms 1, a development of 62 houses. He also has had plans approved for Brookview Farms 2, which will have about 40 houses.
Brookview Farms 1 and 2 are on the northwest side of Minebank Run, an environmentally sensitive stream that feeds into the Gunpowder River which empties into Chesapeake Bay. Brookview Farms 3 would be east of Minebank between the stream and Cromwell Bridge Road.
In order to carry out his plans for that development, Mr. Eck plans to transfer nine units that were not built at Brookview Farms 2 to Brookview Farms 3.
The review group also referred to the Planning Board the question of whether this "density transfer" would conflict with the master plan.
If the Planning Board determines there is a conflict with the Master Plan, the county could then go through procedures to acquire the land from the owners. Ultimately, the County Council would have to appropriate funds to buy the land.