Hampton residents fight development

The Baltimore Sun

The last commercial operation in Baltimore County's Hampton neighborhood went out of business before an electric lamp or record player had been invented, before postage stamps were used, and before California, Texas or Florida became states.

Since Ridgely's ironworks stopped production at the Hampton estate sometime around 1829, the community has been residential.

And according to many residents of Hampton -- a community north of Towson -- they'd like to keep it that way.

But a developer wants to build a senior housing complex in Hampton and is seeking a zoning change on an 11-acre parcel on Hampton Lane owned by Towson United Methodist Church.

The request is one of more than 570 submitted as part of Baltimore County's land-use designation review done every four years.

"The precedent it would set would be devastating," said Richards Badmington, a Hampton activist. "For us, there's no half-step here. There's no 'little bit' pregnant."

Towson United Methodist Church has agreed to sell the land to senior housing developers, according to the church and The Shelter Group, a company that is based in Baltimore.

Current zoning allows for two residential units to be built on an acre. The request seeks zoning that would allow 16 units per acre, according to county records.

The problem isn't with the senior housing project itself, Badmington said. "We're probably all going to be shopping for assisted living one day--that's not the point here," he said.

Doug Ober, president of the Hampton Improvement Association, said, "We're really focused on the zoning issues and what that could do to the character of Hampton."

Shelter Group officials say they have heard the concern of neighbors.

"We look forward to coming up with a resolution that will work for everyone," said Shelter vice president David Carliner.

Development and preservation clashes are often part of the county's quadrennial zoning review.

As part of the County Zoning Map Process, known as the CZMP, property owners, neighbors, planning staff, and council members can request changes on zoning designations, which guide land use.

The zoning change requests are studied by county planning staff, who will make preliminary recommendations by the end of the month.

A series of public hearings, one held in each council district, begins in March. The County Council, which will also have public hearings, must vote on the requests by September.

About 150 residents packed a Lutheran church hall to discuss the Shelter Group's request earlier this month.

The consensus of residents is that they oppose zoning changes that would allow higher density residential development and require trees to be knocked down, Ober said.

Instead, many residents would prefer zoning changes to lower the density of housing, Ober said.

"We don't want to invite a process that will turn Hampton into a York Road corridor," Badmington said.

Towson United Methodist Church is aware of some neighbors' opposition, said senior pastor David S. Cooney.

"We entered into this with Shelter, believing this is a good use for the land -- that this is a good company and a needed service," Cooney said. "We have listened to the neighbors. We are interested in their concerns."

In addition to the Methodist church, the Hampton neighborhood includes another church, Notre Dame Preparatory School and the Hampton National Historic Site.

The 630 homes in the neighborhood were all built on land formerly part of the Ridgely estate. The mansion and the remaining 62-acre property is part of the national park.

Because of how the estate was sold, most homes are subject to protective covenants that, for example, prohibit subdivision of lots, Badmington said.


Rezoning hearings

The Baltimore County Planning Board is holding a series of public hearings on the rezoning requests in each council district. Each hearing will be at 7 p.m.:

District 1:

March 4 at Lansdowne High School, 3800 Hollins Ferry Road.

District 2:

March 6 at Pikesville High School, 7621 Labyrinth Road.

District 3:

March 11 at Loch Raven High School, 1212 Cowpens Ave.

District 4:

March 13 at Randallstown High School, 4000 Offutt Road.

District 5:

March 18 at Perry Hall High School, 4601 Ebenezer Road.

District 6:

March 20 at Overlea High School, 5401 Kenwood Ave.

District 7:

March 25 at Patapsco High School, 8100 Wise Ave.

From April 1 through May 15, the planning board reviews the requests and makes recommendations about them.

In June, another series of public hearings on the requests will be held by council districts. From July through Sept. 15, the council members review the requests. And by Sept. 16, they must decide whether to approve them.

Information: www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/plann ing/zoning/2008czmp/index.html

The Greater Baltimore Sierra Club and Community & Environmental Defense Services are planning two workshops about the rezoning process. The workshops will be 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at Catonsville branch library, 1100 Frederick Road, and 7 p.m. March 5 at Towson branch library, 320 York Road. Registration is required, at 410-654-3021 or Rklein@ceds.org. More information: www.ceds.org/bcmd

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