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Voluntary ban on building in Perry Hall area proposed TTC


The idea of a government-imposed, three-year building moratorium in Perry Hall is dead. In its place is a plan for a voluntary ban.

The decision to create a private pact among developers, government and community leaders was reached yesterday at a meeting attended by Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden, two County Council members, county planning and public works officials, Perry Hall residents, landowners and builders.

If all parties can work out the details -- such as how to enforce the agreement -- a voluntary, two-year ban would take effect immediately.

Mr. Hayden had first proposed the ban on a 3,000-acre parcel in Perry Hall last month, in response to complaints about overcrowded schools and services not keeping pace with new construction. But the executive couldn't get the five council votes needed to get it approved.

"We're past procrastination on this issue," Mr. Hayden said yesterday. "We've got to get down to some answers."

Monday night, a busload of about 50 angry Perry Hall residents attended the County Council meeting to push for the moratorium in the area, called Honeygo. The county wants to keep the land undeveloped until a comprehensive plan for growth can be created.

Development in White Marsh-Perry Hall, an area designated by the county to absorb new growth, has increased way ahead of the county's ability to provide services. And the result has been congestion and complaints.

Local officials are worried that without the ban, they will have no chance to plan for public facilities such as roads, schools and sewers.

Gary Coldwell, president of the Perry Hall Elementary School PTA, scolded council members Monday night for opposing the ban, charging they are "more concerned with [the politics of] moratoriums than the problems in Perry Hall.

"My children have no place to play," he said.

"Perry Hall has awakened and it's not going to sleep again," Mr. Coldwell warned.

The audience cheered.

But Councilman Vincent Gardina, a 5th District Democrat who represents the area, could only find one other council member to vote for a government-imposed moratorium.

The other five echoed the opposition expressed by businesses and developers worried that a such a ban would set a precedent that could discourage business activity all over the county.

After reaching agreement yesterday to try to hammer out a voluntary ban, Stephen R. Smith, president of the county chapter of the Homebuilders Association of Maryland, said: "This is the right way to approach the issue. I think we've got a winner."

Bernie Schwartz, whose family has farmed 120 acres for generations, and Larry Macks, a builder whose company owns 100 acres, both said yesterday that they, too, are satisfied with a voluntary moratorium.

But builders want guarantees that when the council votes on comprehensive rezoning proposals in October, Mr. Gardina won't vote to change zoning to decrease the number of houses that can be built in a given area.

The developers also want promises from county officials that sufficient public facilities -- like roads, parks and utilities -- will be available to them when they are needed.

Dorothy McMann, president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association, told Mr. Gardina that if he agrees not to "down zone" Honeygo land, she also wants him to agree not to increase density, either.

After yesterday's meeting, Mr. Coldwell said he was "optimistic" that the participants would be able to work together to devise specific ideas for making the Perry Hall community a pleasant, residential area with adequate public services.

The disputed area is bounded by Belair Road on the northwest, Gunpowder Falls on the north, Interstate 95 and Philadelphia Road on the southeast, and Honeygo Run and Chapel Road on the southwest.

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