SPARROWS POINT — Residents and school officials are up in arms about the new Country Club Estates development, which will bring more than 300 new homes to the Bear Creek and Schoolhouse Cove area.
The homes will be built on the current site of the member-owned golf course — a 27 hole course that will drop down to 18. The development will be home to 312 housing units.
The units will consist of 53 villas, which will be located on the west side of the property along Bear Creek. The development also will have 66 single family homes and 193 townhouses. The total area of the development is projected to take up 76 acres of the 271-acre property.
Sparrows Point Country Club, which has been in existence for nearly 100 years and has been in its current location since 1954, is projected to receive a significant upgrade in facilities, as homebuyers will have to pay membership dues to the members only club.
At a time when country clubs across the country are struggling to maintain membership, the development seems to be sailing through the the planned urban development (PUD) process.
Across the country, country clubs are struggling to maintain membership. Adults aged 18-34 dropped from around nine million during the 1990s to 6.2 million today, according to the National Golf Association.
Sparrows Point Country Club, who are delinquent on their property taxes and water bill, sold a portion of its land to support the development of Country Club Estates. The financial boon will be used to upgrade its dilapidated facilities.
Environmental and infrastructure
Residents of neighboring streets report multiple concerns about the housing development, chief among them environmental conservation, strain on sewer and water resources and light pollution. Significant concerns about school overcrowding have also come to light.
A treeline of mature oak trees that stand along Schoolhouse Cove/Bear Creek on the west side of the course will be decimated to make the necessary room to build a portion of the 53 villas. These oak trees are also seemingly within the 300 foot Chesapeake Bay environmental conservation area. And the homes will be built right on top of them.
School overcrowding has also been a chief concern, with changes in public information confounding and upsetting locals.
This year, Sparrows Point High School is overfilled to 119.63 percent, according to Baltimore County Public Schools. By 2024, when Country Club Estates is expected to be completed, Sparrows Point High is projected to be at 130.2 percent full.
“The middle school and Sparrows Point High School both reach over-capacity in 2019,” Willard McJilton said. “They have not added in these three large developments. They were not included in the count. They need to handle it somehow or another if they allow this to go forward.”
“I’m 100 percent against developments in these areas where schools are overcrowded,” said Rob McMillion, Baltimore County School Board representative for the Seventh District.
McMillion said that parents who live within the Sparrows Point school boundary are upset because they think they have been misled. The Baltimore County Public Schools website showed that the Sparrows Point Country Club was in the boundary for Edgemere Elementary, General John Stricker Middle School and Patapsco High School.
McMillion said he called BCPS on Aug. 22 to ask if the boundary outlined for 919 Wise Ave., Sparrows Point Country Club’s address, was correct. On Aug. 27, he was told that the website was corrected to show that the country club is within the Edgemere Elementary, Sparrows Point Middle School and Sparrows Point High School boundary, he said.
“If there’s any way that project can be stopped, I’m all for it,” McMillion said.
The Dundalk Eagle acquired a document dated July 9 from Steven Walsh, Director of the Department of Public Works, to Mark Vaszil, Vice President of Engineering for DS Thaler and Associates, LLC.
The document pertains to a waiver that was submitted to the Department of Public Works for low-pressure sewer systems and grinder pumps in place in place of a gravity sewer system.
“The Sewer Design Section has reviewed your Waiver Request No. 1 and has determined that there are environmental, topographic or subsurface conditions that make it very difficult, infeasible, or impractical to construct and maintain a gravity sewer system,” the document said.
The developer’s waiver request to install low-pressure sewers and grinder pumps in several of the proposed lots was granted.
Chesapeake Bay Critical Area
One concerned citizen said his main environmental concern was the proposed villas that run along Bear Creek. The land that currently runs along Bear Creek has been designated a Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Buffer Zone, meaning that a development cannot be built within 300 feet of tidal waters.
The buffer serves as an important protective area for aquatic resources and shoreline habitat and is subject to more stringent requirements than the rest of the Critical Area, as it is deemed essential to water quality improvement and fish, wildlife and plant habitat enhancement, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Nick Kelly, a regional program director with the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Comission, said that a developer can build within the 300-feet boundary if the local jurisdiction proposes, and the commission approves, alternative methods for enhancement of water quality and habitat that provide greater benefits to the resources.
Two meetings pertaining to the Country Club Estates housing development will take place at the Jefferson Building in Towson. One meeting is a Hearing Officer’s Hearing, which will be held in Room 205. The proposal will go before an administrative judge, who will decide if the project will continue. That meeting will begin at 10 a.m. and is open to the public.
The other meeting is a zoning meeting, which will also be held in Room 205 and will begin at 10 a.m. This meeting is also open to the public.
The public is encouraged to attend and make their voices heard, said Doug Anderson, senior council assistant for Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell, R-7.
“We were informed a year ago that the project would be districted to Sparrows Point Middle School and High School during the county PUD process,” Anderson said.
“Only last week did we find out that due purely to an error on the website, that Gen. Stricker Middle School and Patapsco High School were listed. This has been corrected by BCPS after an inquiry by the School Board last week. Regarding the project and oak tree line, we’ve only had one nearby community member come in regarding this. It’s important to understand that this project is in the hands of the county development review process. The county’s development review is lengthy and involved and covers every single aspect of the project’s impact on the surrounding community. All of these review meetings are open to the public, and I encourage all interested citizens to take part, and make their voices heard.”
Sparrows Point Country Club did not respond to request for comment by press time.