Good Shepherd Church, developer team up to propose residences, new church facility in Catonsville

A Glen Burnie developer and Catonsville church have teamed up to propose developing property owned and occupied by Good Shepherd Church into 30-plus residences and a new church facility.

Representatives from Craftsmen Developers and Development Design Consultants, an engineering firm working on the venture, presented the plan, which is in its earliest stage, to county agencies during a concept plan conference on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

The meeting was the first step in the development process. The proposed project would build 23 townhomes, nine single-family homes and a religious facility to the 6.1-acre plot of land at 736 Edmondson Ave. that is zoned for 5.5 homes per acre.

Good Shepherd, a Charismatic Episcopal church, is currently meeting in a carriage house. The Rev. Martin Eppard, the church’s founding pastor, described the building as a “converted garage.” The church facility stands behind another building that used to be the Ashton-Sterling funeral home.

“We’re in a very temporary worship facility, so we’re all looking toward being in a church that will have classrooms and nurseries and things we don’t have room for at this point,” Eppard said.

The church approached Craftsmen Developers to construct residences on the property in order to develop a source of income so that the congregation could construct a new church, according Eppard.

The church purchased the property in 2012, according to county tax records, with the intention of moving into the former funeral home, and located near the center of the land. But the repair work for that building was extensive, and “beyond repair,” Eppard said.

“So we began looking at other options, and talked to several developers and came up with a plan to use a portion of the property for development, and a portion of the property for a new church,” Eppard said.

The proposal has received significant attention on social media. Facebook posts in neighborhood groups have accumulated dozens of comments and raised concerns including school crowding and the community traffic burden.

Matthew Riesner, president of the Ingleside Neighborhood Association, said in an interview after the meeting he was not satisfied with the current plan, which calls for the removal of more than 20 trees and also only connects to Edmondson Avenue.

He said he’d like to see the development make better use of existing roads, like Bobby Road to the west and Arunah Avenue to the north. Riesner said the current proposal is “like an island.”

“I just don’t think it integrates well with the existing community,” Riesner said.

County agency officials are also unsatisfied with the plan as submitted. During the concept plan meeting Tuesday, officials listed items that would need to be addressed: the traffic burden, property setback, environmental preservation, stormwater management, among others. Jesse Bialek, a development review planner, called it “deficient in many aspects.”

Darryl Putty, the county’s project manager assigned to the development, said it was very unusual in a concept plan conference during which “everybody” had some issues with the proposal.

“It’s not a great plan. It’s not the worst I’ve seen,” Putty said. “But they’ve got work to do.”

The deficiencies are not stopping the developers and planners, however.

Conor Gilligan, vice president of land management for Craftsmen, said his company intends to move forward and work on the county’s recommendations and requirements.

“We feel pretty confident that we’re working within the spirit of the Baltimore County code, and we’ll work with each agency independently to come to an agreeable plan,” Gilligan said.

County Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville, said he would like to see the church do “a lot more work,” and listen to the concerns of the surrounding community. He said the plan needs “refinement.”

“But it’s early in the process and I think the plan will be modified a lot based on public comments as well,” Quirk said in a written statement.

Eppard said the church has been engaging with neighbors who might, for example, be walking their dog on the property and see some work is happening and ask what’s happening.

“I’m very pleased with the development plan they have at this point, but we’re open to suggestions. If there’s room for improvement, I think it would only make the plan better,” Eppard said.

A community input meeting is the next step and required before the plan can go forward. Baltimore County requires that public notice of the meeting be posted 21 days prior to it occurring. A meeting has not yet been scheduled.

cboteler@baltsun.com

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