FOUR YEARS ago, the animosity between St. Timothy's School and its immediate neighbors was so bitter that they could not even meet in the same room.
Today, the relationship couldn't be better. St. Timothy's has sold its 90 surplus acres -- the source of the previous friction -- for development with the community's enthusiastic support.
The difference? Both sides decided it was to their benefit to hammer out an agreement that allows the school to realize a return on its land but preserves its pastoral appearance.
St. Timothy's had the appropriate zoning to develop about 70 homes on its extra land. All it needed was Baltimore County's approval. But neighbors whose property bordered the school's woods and pastures wanted no development.
Thanks to a county hearing officer's rejection of St. Timothy's original plan -- which placed a storm management pond for the homes on a stream -- both sides had to reassess their positions.
They began to meet. At first, only attorneys spoke while clients listened. Over time, representatives of the school and the community began to understand each other's positions. After months of sifting through proposals, they agreed on a plan.
They finally settled on developing 19 luxury homes -- tucked away unseen by immediate neighbors or from Greenspring Valley below -- and selling off the remaining acreage to a development partnership, which ironically includes some community members. Instead of building houses, the partnership will donate the land to the Odyssey School, which specializes in teaching dyslexic students and has outgrown its Roland Park location.
As a result of this complicated deal, both parties walk away satisfied. In development fights, this is a rare occurrence. A lawyer who has participated in scores of these confrontations marveled at the result: "We achieved a fairy tale ending to a horror story."