Baltimore County officials have been steadfast in their opposition to the planned Colvista housing development, even as they've been impressed by the 3,000-house proposal that includes fashionable town homes and wooded bike trails.
Indeed, it's a development most jurisdictions would gladly embrace. Baltimore County would be counted among them except for one big sticking point -- the location. The developer, Security Management Corp., wants to build on 215 acres it owns on the Loch Raven Reservoir watershed. However, during the past two decades, the county has turned down requests by the owners to rezone the land for greater density. Protecting land near the reservoir -- the prime source of the Baltimore area's drinking water -- is more than the stated philosophy of the county government. It's practically a religion to many officials, and to countless residents.
Security, headed by Victor Posner, is suing the county for $80 million over its denial of the firm's last rezoning request. The county's strategy is to block the suit, thereby forcing Security to take its case to the county Board of Appeals. The Colvista plan would likely die there. It would stand a better chance of success before a Circuit Court judge.
It appears the real reason for the suit is to get county officials' depositions on what they find acceptable about the plan. Armed with that information, Security could then retool its proposal to suit the county and re-submit it in the hope of finally gaining the zoning change.
The doggedness of the property owners in this matter over two decades should serve to make county officials that much more adamant that the watershed is too sensitive a location for what would be one of the biggest housing tracts ever built in the county. Security, which could erect 43 houses under the current zoning, says the proposed 3,000 homes would add needed tax revenues to the county's coffers. True, but the dollars coming in would be greatly outweighed by the bucks going out to pay for roads, schools and the other amenities required by such a huge development.
The builder also argues that the county has discriminated against Security because existing developments nearby had been OKed. However, the numbers of homes in neighboring communities pale next to the proposed Colvista figures. Even if the county erred in allowing those developments, that doesn't mean the mistake should be repeated, particularly with a proposal on this scale.
One of the designated growth areas, Owings Mills or White Marsh, is where Colvista belongs, not on watershed property. Baltimore County must continue to be as determined in opposing the plan as the developer has been in pursuing it.