After a decade of trying to win federal and state permission to build a 100-acre lake, envisioned as the centerpiece of Owings Mills, Baltimore County has finally given up.
The county has invested nearly $2 million in planning the project. But at a meeting of developers and state and local officials yesterday, Executive Roger B. Hayden said, "I am convinced we won't see a dam [to create the lake] in any of our lifetimes.
"It's time to move on."
The idea of building a dam to block the Red Run trout stream was first conceived in the late 1970s as a way to control flooding, like that which occurred after Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972.
But county officials soon recognized that the lake made by damming the stream could be an appealing amenity, which could make Owings Mills a popular place to live and work -- and help the town center to be a financial success.
Increasingly strict enforcement of environmental regulations repeatedly blocked the permit that would have allowed construction to move forward.
Without the lake, a natural stream valley park would likely be created along Red Run. The county, however, had planned to put in a $3 million sewer line along the stream bed under the lake. And since the lake would have destroyed the trout stream anyway, the course of the sewer line made little difference.
Now county officials are worried that without the lake and dam,they could be required to redesign the sewer line to make sure it doesn't damage the stream. And that could cause a delay of up to two years in planned development on about 2,000 acres of land along Interstate 795, north of the Owings Mills Mall. Most of the land is zoned for industrial or office use, and the county is anxious to get the tax money and jobs that would go with its development.
Further, because state and federal agencies see plans for Owings Mills as a package, approval for an important road, called Red Run Boulevard, could also be delayed. The 3.5-mile road would run from the mall north along I-795 to Franklin Boulevard.
Owings Mills was identified as one of two primary growth centers in 1979, when the county adopted its strategy for channeling most new development to designated areas to keep it from eating up all the rural acreage.
The other growth center is White Marsh, and county officials want to avoid the pattern that occurred there. White Marsh has been plagued by congestion because developments were built before roads, utilities and schools were in place.
At the meeting yesterday, county officials, who had given up on the lake, sought cooperation from the state agencies charged with reviewing plans for the proposed sewer line and the road.
David Carroll, Gov. William Donald Schaefer's Chesapeake Bay coordinator, said the county's plan for Owings Mills fits the state's growth management plans for protecting Chesapeake Bay. He pledged the state's cooperation in approving the sewer and road projects.
And state secretary of Natural Resources, Dr. Torrey C. Brown, who did not attend the meeting, said later that he understands the county "has been going through this lake thing for all these years."
"We will get this solved," he said.