Roland Park residents have succeeded in their efforts to get the Baltimore City Council to restrict development on property owned by the Baltimore Country Club.
A city council committee last week approved legislation that would limit the number of residences allowed on a 32-acre country club parcel visible from Falls Road, west of the main clubhouse on Club Road.
The legislation was drafted as part of TransForm, the citywide rezoning process. It now goes to the full council, which is expected to vote on it tonight. If the council approves the legislation on second reader as expected, it will be considered next week for a third and final vote. Once it is passed by the council, it will be sent to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to be signed into law.
The undeveloped Baltimore Country Club parcel has been one of the most controversial properties considered under the TransForm process. Both the country club and the Roland Park Civic League, a community organization, urged their members to contact City Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton to support the zoning they wanted for the open space.
Residents said they feared a future developer could buy the property and build more than 100 houses on the land unless the zoning was adjusted to limit what can be constructed. The country club operators accused the civic league officers of trying to depress the value of the land so they could buy it at a low price.
The current zoning designation, R-1, allows one house for every 7,300 square feet. The civic league advocated that the country club property be rezoned to R-1-C, which would permit one house for every 21,780 square feet, or R-1-D, which would permit one house for every 14,420 square feet.
The country club sought R-1-E zoning, which would permit one house for every 9,000 square feet.
The final decision from the council’s Land Use and Transportation Committee was to accept Middleton’s recommendation of R-1-D zoning.
Michael Stott, the country club’s general manager, said the council’s action is detrimental to the club, which is 118 years old and has been part of the community the entire time.
“The club is disappointed,” he said. “We accepted downzoning from our current state of R-1 to R-1-E., and the civic league wanted to further downzone the club.”
Does the organization have any recourse?
“We’re looking at all of our options,” he said.
Stott said the country club wasn’t happy about the idea of rezoning the land from R-1 when the TransForm process began several years ago, but its leaders decided not to challenge an R-1-E designation.
Stott said the civic league officers knew that the R-1-E designation represented a downzoning of the property and that the club nevertheless accepted that.
“They knew that…would do harm to the club, but they still sought to downzone the property further, which is very disappointing,” he said of the league officers. “They knew what we had accepted in 2013, but the civic league pushed further and further, knowing it would harm us. They knew it would harm us even more.”
Chris Mcsherry, vice president of the Roland Park Civic League, said the community is pleased with the support it received from its elected officials. Middleton and Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke both represent sections of Roland Park; Middleton represents the area where the country club is located.
“We are very pleased with the vote in the Land Use and Transportation Committee, and very grateful for the support of our city councilwomen,” Mcsherry said. “R-1-D is consistent with the rest of the neighborhood in the area between Falls Road and Roland Avenue.”
In another controversial case, the council decided to back a request to rezone the Pepsi bottling plant property in the Jones Falls Valley to I-MU, which would permit mixed use development after Pepsi moves out. Himmelrich Associates, the property owner, sought the designation to permit non-industrial uses such as housing and commercial space.
The council is expected to vote on the rezoning in a meeting that starts today at 5 p.m. at City Hall.
Ed Gunts writes about design and development for Baltimore Fishbowl.