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Parkton-area residents lose bid to block developer of Cameron Mill acreage Environmental fears rejected by county


Plans to build 51 pricey homes on both sides of the Northern Central Railroad bike trail north of Parkton have moved a step closer to construction after the Board of Appeals rejected community objections to the project.

The Cameron Mill Partnership would erect the $300,000-to- $500,000 homes on 3-acre lots above the Little Falls and Beetree Run, with road access from Cameron Mill, Stablers Church and Eagle Mill roads.

The sites, on two wooded ridges and one recently farmed hillside, overlook a pretty, bowl-shaped stream valley now occupied by a single small farmhouse and barn, which is to remain. The bike trail follows the old railroad bed along the foot of a steep wooded ridge at the valley's western edge.

The developer's plans avoid construction on steep slopes and wetlands and provide for wooded buffer zones between groups of houses. However, the design required the developer to seek variances from county zoning regulations on the shape of the lots.

"We put ourselves through a variance case we didn't have to, and the reason was to protect that valley," said Newton A. Williams, the developer's attorney. No more than 10 percent of the wooded lots would be cleared.

Mr. Williams said opponents would prefer to see the valley remain vacant, a prospect he called unrealistic.

But the community association says the 276-acre development, with its wells and septic systems, will threaten springs, streams and existing wells in the area and pose additional burdens to schools, police and volunteer fire service.

"We're not opposed to development, but we are opposed to development that would either harm the environment or overcrowd the place," said Dr. Richard W. McQuaid, president of the 250-member Maryland Line Area Association, which has led the opposition.

"Our suggestion would be a very much diminished development of maybe a dozen or so houses in areas [of the tract] where building is legitimate, not counting steep slopes and forest buffer as part of it," he said.

The association has until Sept. 11 to file an appeal in Circuit Court, an option that is still being weighed. "We're not done yet," Dr. McQuaid said.

Arguments raised by the community association in hearings before the county Planning Board and County Review Group were rejected by the Board of Appeals earlier this month.

The association argued that wells planned for the development would draw contaminated ground water from the closed Parkton Sanitary Landfill, about one mile east of the Cameron Mill site.

The Board of Appeals decision notes that ground water flows predominantly southeast from the landfill, away from the development site. It also stated that while water from monitoring wells at the landfill do carry carcinogens, the contamination does not exceed federal limits for drinking water.

That's a contention that Dr. McQuaid vigorously disputes. The association also tried to argue that continued development in the area will simply draw in ground water from the landfill until contaminants do show up.

"But apparently it fell on deaf ears," he said.

The board found no evidence that the development's wells would draw contamination from the landfill.

The community association had also objected to the county's waiver of provisions requiring enough land on each house lot to enclose a 300-foot circle, an area thought necessary for safe well and septic system operation.

The developer sought the variances, arguing that he could not meet the requirement on 32 of the 51 lots without encroaching lTC on the bike trail or forest buffer zones planned for the 276-acre tract.

The Board of Appeals decided that despite their odd shapes, the 32 lots are large enough and provide sufficient distances between the wells, septic systems and homes to pose "no

substantial injury."

Dr. McQuaid predicted the wells would be dry or fouled by sewage in five to 10 years. "By then," he said, "the developer is gone, the home builder is gone, your warranty has expired, and you're stuck with a $1,500 bill to put in a new well."

Another issue was the fate of the stone foundation of the 18th-century Cameron Mill and the crumbling 1790 miller's house just across a very narrow stretch of Cameron Mill Road. Both are listed as county historic landmarks.

The county Planning Board had accepted plans in which the county road's right of way would encroach on the foundation of the old mill.

Opponents of the development argued that the right of way threatened the mill's remains. But the Board of Appeals sided with the Planning Board's finding that there was no way to keep all the mill foundation outside the proposed right of way.

Dr. McQuaid said that while no road widening is currently planned that would require demolition of mill foundations, "if this development goes in, people will start hollering that the road is too narrow."

Mr. Williams said that only a portion of the development's residents would use the road by the old mill, and "they're not all going to leave and enter at the same time." He called the issue a "smoke screen."

Pending final design and county approvals, Mr. Williams said, site work could begin as early as next spring or summer. Principals in the Cameron Mill Partnership are developer James McKee, real estate broker Dennis German and Towson attorney Larry Melfa.

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