Bad plan for Hayfields


Developer Nicholas Mangione wants to build 50 luxury homes and an 18-golf course on a large property he owns in Baltimore County. Ordinarily, this would be a to-die-for proposal in the eyes of county officials. The homes would improve both the housing stock and the tax base of the jurisdiction -- which, by the way, has one of the lowest golf-hole-per-capita rates in the nation. (That's right, someone somewhere actually keeps track of such things as golf holes per local resident.)

A great-sounding deal, right? Well, not quite. Mr. Mangione's property happens to be the historic and environmentally sensitive Hayfields Farm in the government-protected valleys of north Baltimore County. If location is everything in the real estate game, the Mangione plan seems doomed by its proposed site.

Indeed, when the Baltimore County Planning Board recently considered the proposal, the members gave it a unanimous thumbs-down. Earlier, the county Office of Planning and Zoning had issued a report stating that not only should the farm remain untouched, but also it deserves more restrictive zoning.

The current zoning would let Mr. Mangione put up 40 houses. For now, he awaits county approvals for the higher-density zoning his housing proposal requires and the special exception he needs to construct the golf course. He failed in his two previous efforts to obtain similar permission from the county. Local officials must make sure he goes 0-for-3. They would be smart to do so for various reasons, not the least of which is that Mr. Mangione has a documented history of numerous zoning violations in both Baltimore and Howard counties. His is not a record that suggests he would be the best person to develop one of the most important parcels of land in the valleys.

Local officials should also keep in mind that as severely "under-holed" as the county might be, the Mangione golf course would be private and thus do virtually nothing to ease the county's severe shortage of public courses.

Notwithstanding Mr. Mangione's past zoning violations and the minimal effect his golf course would have on the hole-per-capita rate, the key reason to deny this project is that it would be the wrong use of this property. The county has long been adamant about preserving its green gems in the north. It should take no less adamant a stance in defending Hayfields against Nick Mangione's development plan.

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