Bulldozers have begun moving the rich soil of the Hayfields farm near Hunt Valley, beginning construction of a controversial golf course and country club at the Baltimore County landmark.

The Nicholas Mangione family, which is developing the property over the vehement objections of local preservationists, is proceeding even as it awaits a Circuit Court ruling on the golf course, country club and adjacent housing development.

"We're moving ahead at our own risk because we have the proper permits," said John Mangione, project manager. Noting that the county Board of Appeals decision last August to approve the project could be tied up in court for some time, he said, "It doesn't make sense to wait another year or two."

But opponents who have appealed the decision in Circuit Court fear that now that work has begun, there will be no saving the 474-acre farm, once honored by the Marquis de Lafayette, and the gateway to Baltimore County's northern rural valleys.

"To us, it seems they are almost deliberately flouting the court's deliberation," said John C. Bernstein, director of the Valleys Planning Council, which has tried for years to defeat the proposed country club and housing development.

Hayfields is one of the oldest and most prominent farms in the county. In 1824, Lafayette, the Revolutionary War hero, declared Hayfields the best-managed farm in the state. It later was home to Confederate sympathizer John Merryman, who was arrested for treason and imprisoned at Fort McHenry after he burned a Parkton bridge to keep Union troops from moving south.

Mangione Family Enterprises, which has owned the property for more than 10 years, has been trying for several years to build a country club and 40 houses on the property. The Mangiones have promised to preserve the Hayfields farmhouse and a number of outbuildings, but have been unable to satisfy project critics, who want the farm to remain intact.

The county issued a grading permit in December, but stopped work temporarily in February because the bulldozers were infringing on a required forest buffer, said George G. Perdikakis, director of the Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management.

Perdikakis said the grading is proceeding in areas approved by inspectors while a Circuit Court judge reviews the case.

Recently, bulldozers began moving large mounds of soil in the field next to Shawan Road for the golf course portion of the project, outraging opponents. Work has not begun on land for the houses.

"I was surprised to see the degree of grading that is happening," said Dan Timmel, who lives on Western Run Road across from Hayfields.

Opponents are frustrated that the county is permitting the grading before the judge rules and before the developer has complied with a Board of Appeals requirement that soil samples be taken to make sure there is a layer of clay on the site to protect ground water.

"Once you've moved a couple football fields of earth, it's not so easy to put it back," said Bernstein.

The opponents argue that the county should not have approved the country club and an adjacent housing development. They say the project will destroy a historic farm with some of the most productive soil in the county, threaten ground water of neighboring residents, undermine efforts to protect the county's agricultural land and add to traffic congestion.

Bernstein said he feels confident the judge will rule in their favor, but by the time a decision comes -- perhaps not until summer -- it may be too late.

"It won't be Hayfields anymore, it will be a construction site," he said.

But the developer's lawyer, G. Scott Barhight, said all the work is legal. "We're allowed to proceed while on appeal," he said.

Thomas L. Vidmar, chief of the county's Bureau of Resource Management and Engineering Services, said inspectors are keeping a close watch to see that the developer abides by the board's orders, but will not require soil samples until the grading is almost finished. The county wants to ensure that clay is not scraped away.

"We're working with the developer on the protocol of that," Vidmar said. "Our main concern is that we protect the ground water."

Deirdre Smith, a Green Spring Valley resident who has donated the development rights on her farm to the state's agricultural protection program and the Maryland Environmental Trust, said she is amazed that the state and county have spent so much to preserve farmland and have not saved Hayfields.

"To me it comes down to whether future generations will look at this and be happy with a golf course and houses and water pollution and congestion or be sad, as I am, that we have lost this jewel," she said.

Pub Date: 4/28/97

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad