Concerns over stormwater management and school capacity dominated a community input meeting concerning a proposal for the Ingleside area of Catonsville on Thursday, Dec. 20.
About 100 people turned out to the meeting held at the Catonsville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library regarding the proposed development located at 736 Edmondson Ave. It’s being developed in a partnership between Good Shepherd Church, which owns the land, and Glen Burnie-based Craftsmen Developers.
The proposed development would eventually include 32 residences, split between nine single-family homes and 23 townhomes, and a church. Currently, the lot houses an old and abandoned funeral home, and a carriage house that Good Shepherd Church meets in each week.
The plot of land is 6.1 acres and zoned for 5.5 residences per acre; the proposed development would not require zoning changes. Good Shepherd Church purchased the land in 2012, according to county tax records. Founding Pastor Martin Eppard has said he and his congregation are hoping to develop the land to raise money to build a new, larger church building. The carriage house the church is currently meeting in would remain in place.
Matthew Riesner, president of the Ingleside Neighborhood Association of Catonsville, said he was not inherently opposed to development, but that he wants to see “good development.”
“I feel like the project is going to need to be revised,” he said. Riesner cited how the development would integrate with the existing community and existing infrastructure — like sewage and roads — as some of his biggest concerns.
Several in attendance said they were worried that putting a new development on largely open land would lead to flooding. Currently, 736 Edmondson Ave. has about 1.7 acres of impervious surfaces that are unmanaged and that water can run off of untreated, said Conor Gilligan, vice president of land management for Craftsmen Developers.
If the property is developed, he said, it would instead have to be managed and treated as if it were a plot of land that was “entirely wooded.”
“Every inch of that water needs to be managed on that site, and discharged appropriately,” Gilligan said.
However, he was unable to share specifics of a stormwater management plan at the time of the meeting, saying it was too early in the process and that such plans had not yet been developed.
Others were concerned that building a new development would invite more families with school-aged children to move into the region, putting stress on a school system that’s already facing capacity issues.
Estimates that Craftsmen presented showed the development would not add a statistically significant number of students to any grade level.
Eppard, with Good Shepherd Church, said he was sympathetic to the community input, and that he’s had several conversations with concerned area residents.
“We here you. It’s going to change,” Eppard said. “I think it’s going to look completely different than what you see here now.”
However, the proposed development will need to make several adjustments before it can advance under Baltimore County’s permitting process. While neighbors and residents of the Ingleside area have been some of the loudest voices in opposition to the plan, they are not the only ones with objections.
A development review planner called the proposal “deficient in many aspects” at a concept plan conference in early October. County officials at the time said several issues, including traffic burden, environmental preservation, stormwater management and property setbacks would have to be considered.
Giligan, of Craftsmen, said his company has not made formal amendments to the proposal yet because county rules mandate the same proposal that was presented to the conference plan meeting be presented to the community for public input.
Some community members said they would be OK with the development if, for example, it was age-restricted, for folks who are at least 55 years old.
Gilligan said he has had some initial conversations about an age-restricted community with some builders and that initial feedback was “positive.” He said it was possible that future plans for this development could be age-restricted or age-targeted.
“Clearly the majority of people in this room are not happy with this plan and it needs to change. It’s a starting point, and we need to start somewhere,” Gilligan said.
After Thursday night’s community input meeting, the developers have 12 months to submit a development plan to the county. The submission of that plan would initiate a second phase that would have another conference with the county and a public hearing before an administrative law judge makes a decision on the matter.
County Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville, said he was not a fan of the proposal as it stands, despite the fact that it is within its zoning rights. He also said he thought a 55 or older community could alleviate several concerns.
“I definitely think the developer and the church need to listen to the community’s concerns,” Quirk said.