Balto. County plans to curb development on peninsulas; Council schedules vote on sewer moratorium


Baltimore County officials plan to impose a moratorium on sewer hook-ups to shut the door to new development in the environmentally sensitive Bowleys Quarters and Back River Neck peninsulas.

County officials say the moratorium, to be introduced as a bill at tonight's County Council meeting, is needed to curb growth on the two peninsulas, where a sewer system is being built to replace failing septic systems.

The moratorium would prohibit building on 1,100 lots along the two peninsulas.

The sewer system was intended to serve only the 1,200 existing homes, but has the capacity to serve twice that number, said Michael H. Davis, a spokesman for County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger. It was not intended to accommodate property owners who want to build on vacant lots, Davis said, and they have no reason to complain about the moratorium.

"There was never any intention that the county bringing sewers down there was going to lead to more development," Davis said.

Residents said the moratorium will have a major impact.

"It's sort of a double-edged sword because you hate to see the developers come in and develop the large tracts, but at the same time it hurts a lot of the local people here who won't be able to build on a deeded lot handed down to them through their parents," said Tom Lehner, president of the Bowleys Quarters Improvement Association.

The county won approval to build the system from the state Department of Environment and Army Corps of Engineers in the mid-1990s on the condition that it not lead to more development, said George G. Perdikakis, chief of the county's Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management.

"We have committed to the Corps of Engineers and we have committed to the state that we will keep a limit to the development," Perdikakis said.

County officials say the moratorium would help protect a fragile ecosystem where modest homes have been built along creeks that flow into the Chesapeake Bay -- with septic systems that have been failing since the 1970s.

The county Master Plan specifies that the community should retain its rural character and that development should be restricted.

Virginia Barnhart, county attorney, said the bill to be introduced tonight would suspend new agreements for sewer hook-ups -- needed for new homes -- for four months while the county Planning Board comes up with growth management controls.

She said the bill will include a provision to make the law effective today.

Davis said the bill would have no effect on existing marinas and other commercial outlets, which will be served by the sewer system.

Construction on the sewer system started in 1993, but it will not be completed for several years, said Charles R. Olsen, director of the Department of Public Works.

He said the system has a capacity greater than is necessary because, with the relatively small number of homes to be served, space is available in the system's 4-inch lines for additional effluent.

The sewer system uses "grinders" to grind up effluent at individual homes and pumps it to a gravity flow system that is pumped to Back River Treatment Plant, he said.

Pub Date: 2/01/99

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