Continuing a push to develop historic Hayfields, the Mangione family appeared yesterday before the Baltimore County Board of Appeals seeking to boost the number of houses allowed on the farm -- a zoning change that has been consistently rejected over the years.
John Mangione, vice president of the company that owns the farm, said more houses are needed to defray the cost of a golf course that is part of the proposed development. The Mangiones want to build the course and 50 high-priced houses on the 474-acre farm near Shawan Road west of Interstate 83; existing zoning allows 40 houses.
But the Mangiones face great odds because area residents and county officials oppose increasing the number of houses that can be built on the property. Opponents contend that rezoning the farm would set a dangerous precedent, threatening residential density levels designed to protect the rural character of the north county area.
The Mangiones also must overcome an administrative process that makes it difficult to change the zoning of a property between four-year comprehensive rezoning cycles.
To get the change, the Mangiones must prove to the three-member appeals board that an error was made in 1992 when the County Council considered the property's zoning.
That year, as part of the latest rezoning cycle, the Mangiones asked for higher density zoning. The council left the property as it was, with 295 acres zoned for one house per 50 acres, and the rest for roughly one house for every five acres. The Mangiones want to rezone 69 acres in the more restrictive category.
During yesterday's hearing, former county planning director Norman E. Gerber testified that the council made a mistake in 1992 by not re-evaluating the less restrictive zoning category in light of a bill that amended it.
In similar circumstances during previous comprehensive rezoning cycles, the council did order such a re-evaluation, Mr. Gerber said.
The county Office of Planning and Zoning has recommended against any change in the more restrictive zoning on the farm. In a written position submitted to the Planning Board, officials said the change would conflict with the principle of conserving rural areas.
County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III said he also is against the zoning change. As a councilman, he represented the area and turned down two of the previous rezoning requests for Hayfields.
Last month, a zoning commissioner heard testimony and arguments on a special zoning request, which the Mangiones need to develop the golf course. A decision on that request is pending.
If the special exception and the rezoning are granted, the developer must present a final plan for a public hearing and approval.
The board has scheduled two more days of hearings on the rezoning request in the next two weeks. The board then will schedule a day for public deliberations, when it will announce its decision.