Amid repeated requests for postponement -- and charges of improper influence and intimidation -- opponents and supporters of a proposed 63-home development on St. Timothy's School campus squared off in a Baltimore County hearing room yesterday.
County hearing officer Timothy M. Kotroco will determine if the 115-year-old boarding and day school for girls will be able to sell about 90 acres of woods and fields, over the persistent opposition of neighbors along Greenspring Avenue.
Although the development does not require a zoning change, Kotroco must determine whether the development plan is suitable for the community. That decision can be appealed.
Scheduled for three days and likely to extend to five, the hearing is the latest episode in a battle that has raged politely -- in public at least -- for more than a year.
The school contends it must sell about 90 of its 234 acres for home sites to build its endowment and ensure its future. The school uses about 60 acres for classrooms, offices and dormitories. It also maintains stables, a riding ring and horse trails that cut through the land designated for development.
The school's neighbors, organized as the Coalition to Preserve The Valleys from St. Timothy's School's Bridle Ridge Development, oppose the density of the proposed development and worry about its impact on traffic, public school populations, the environment and their property values.
Yesterday, many of them wore stickers reading "Say Neigh to Bridle Ridge."
Before testimony yesterday, J. Carroll Holzer, the attorney for the coalition, asked three times to have the hearing postponed, contending that it had been inadequately posted, that county files of the case were incomplete and difficult to obtain and that he had not had sufficient time to prepare.
Before April 7, the coalition was represented by another attorney from a different law firm.
Three times, Kotroco denied the request for postponement.
Holzer presented a motion to deny the plan or defer it until the county Landmarks Preservation Commission could rule on the historic value of all of the buildings and sites on campus.
In presenting the motion, Holzer said the volunteer commission had been willing to consider several additional St. Timothy's sites as historically significant until the school's attorney threatened a lawsuit and the county attorney intervened.
"We feel this is improper interference in the process," he said. "Due process was not given."
In January and February, the commission listed the main school building, known as Carter House, and several smaller structures on its protected list. And it had agreed to consider the remaining sites at its May meeting. However, the St. Timothy's sites have been taken off the May agenda.
The coalition does not expect to stop the development with protection from the landmarks commission. Members do, however, say such designation would protect the structures and the views from them. St. Timothy's has agreed to an additional buffer of trees that would protect the view from Carter House.
Kotroco did not dismiss this motion, or rule on it. "I'm going to hold it until such time as I make a decision on the case," he said.
Kotroco has agreed to continue the hearing today, tomorrow morning and two days next month, so the coalition can present its expert witnesses, who were not available this week.
Pub Date: 4/24/97