The owners of Mount Vista Golf Course say their clubhouse would be a nice spot for a restaurant. But some who live near the northeast Baltimore County golf course say the building should be a target for a wrecking ball -- as a matter of principle.
More than a year after a county zoning commissioner's ruling that the clubhouse is larger than had been approved, Mount Vista's owners are pushing a proposal to use that extra space for country club facilities.
Neighbors say that to allow the illegal building to be used for a restaurant and catering hall would be to reward a scofflaw.
"My first argument is, 'Tear it down,' " said J. Carroll Holzer, an attorney who is to represent the Greater Kingsville Civic Association at a zoning hearing Wednesday when the golf course owners will ask for approval for it to become a semiprivate country club.
"If you're going to violate the law, then you should pay the price."
Holzer says the larger building's existence creates an uphill fight for opponents.
"The temptation is always for the hearing officer or the Board of Appeals to say, 'You have a building, what's wrong with using it for a restaurant? What's wrong with using it for receptions?' " he said.
"They may well end up rewarded for not following the rules."
Holzer, known for representing communities in legal battles with developers, said he could not recall a case where Baltimore County authorities ordered illegally performed construction to be torn down.
One prime example, he said, is a convenience store in northern Baltimore County that remains open despite complaints that its septic system violated zoning law.
Daniel P. Crispino, one of the golf course owners, said the proposed country club would be an asset to the community.
"We're trying to have something nice here," he said.
His proposal is the latest move in a decade of unresolved debate surrounding the golf course. Some Kingsville residents are concerned that a restaurant might overburden the rural area's water table and might bring too much traffic to the surrounding two-lane roads.
For similar reasons, Kingsville residents have been scrutinizing plans for two churches proposed for the area -- including one that eventually could seat 900 worshipers.
Many area residents originally supported plans for a small, "executive" golf course with modest facilities. Zoning rulings from the late 1980s set limits, such as requiring the course to be closed from late autumn to early spring and banning lights on its driving range.
Although initial plans called for a clubhouse 40 feet by 60 feet, the golf course built one that is more than three times that size. County officials initially issued a building permit for the larger clubhouse, rescinding the permit only after the building was nearly complete and residents complained.
Last year, county zoning commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt ruled the clubhouse illegal and said the owners would have to return to him for approval on uses such as a restaurant.
The alternative, he wrote in his ruling, would be to demolish all but a 40-foot-by-60-foot section of the building.
"This alternative is no doubt unacceptable," Schmidt wrote.
Officers of the Kingsville community group said suspicions that the golf course owners intentionally tried to slip the larger building past county officials have fostered distrust among some Kingsville residents and made them resentful of the current proposal.
"Basically, they stabbed us in the back and betrayed us, and now they're trying to ram it down our throats," said Nancy Hastings, former president of the neighborhood group.
Crispino denied trying to slide the larger building past county officials. He said he had mistakenly thought the plan had been legally amended to allow for the larger building.
The golf course is again seeking lights for its driving range and to be allowed to remain open year round.
Although her organization is fighting the proposal, Elizabeth L. Healey, president of Greater Kingsville Civic Association, acknowledges that some area residents would like to see the golf course facilities expanded. She said the association might be open to slightly expanded eating facilities in the larger building, as long as they are not operated as a restaurant or catering hall open to the public.
Crispino said the eating facilities would be open only to club members and guests and to golfers playing the course. He said the club would seek a liquor license, but "that would probably be later on."
The zoning hearing is at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Room 407 of the County Courts Building, 401 Bosley Ave. in Towson.
Pub Date: 12/15/97