The Baltimore County Council last night sharply reduced the number of homes permitted in Honeygo and began looking for other communities where similar restrictions could be imposed to control growth and ensure higher-quality houses.
The move to cut about 500 of the 4,800 planned houses in the White Marsh-Perry Hall community prompted criticism that doing so will raise housing prices and increase pressure to develop farmland.
But Council Chairman Kevin B. Kamenetz said that the council should also consider restricting development in communities other than Honeygo.
"I think it's something that we should look at," said Kamenetz, a Democrat who represents the Pikesville-Liberty Road corridor.
The council unanimously passed a resolution last night asking the Planning Board to recommend where districts such as Honeygo should be created as part of the Comprehensive Rezoning Process, the council's review of land use patterns that began last month.
In such districts, the council would specify the size of individual building lots, the type of building materials to be used for houses, and the setbacks and facades required for garages.
From Honeygo's inception, county officials have sought tough guidelines for the 3,000-acre community, which is considered Baltimore County's last chance for a large, planned development.
Councilman Vincent J. Gardina said the zoning measures enacted last night for Honeygo will ensure high-quality housing in the community.
"We really feel that it's essential that we do everything possible to keep the area unique," Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat, told the council last night.
But the Honeygo plan prompted concerns that it will increase housing costs and add pressure to develop farmland, because it will mean fewer homes on the market.
"Why are we squandering land this way?" said Gus Moore, a Perry Hall farmer.
Prices in Honeygo vary, but single-family homes in some developments are in the $270,000 range.
Honeygo's single-family home prices are $75,000 higher than the average price in Harford County and $50,000 higher than the Carroll average. "It's basically keeping all but the elite out of Honeygo," Moore said.
The law extends the minimum lot widths for a single-family home from 70 feet to 85 feet, requires the use of more brick and stone, increases the acreage required for side and rear yards, and specifies that garages must be set back at least eight feet from the front of the house.
Critics note that the number of lots in Honeygo has been cut twice, with the figure reduced from 11,000 to 5,556 in 1994. That number was cut to 4,800 units in 1996.
If houses aren't built in Honeygo, they must be constructed elsewhere, putting pressure on farmland, said Louis Ensor, president of the Baltimore County Farm Bureau, which represents agricultural interests.
"If this is supposed to be a growth area, isn't that where growth should be allowed?" he asked. He said development makes it tougher for farmers to stay in business, because agricultural suppliers become more scarce, traffic increases and residential neighbors complain about odors and animals.
Moore said that the development around Perry Hall prompted him to sell off the 84 acres of orchards that have been in his family since 1851.
"We decided that it's just not worth the hassles anymore," he said.
Pub Date: 9/08/99