NOTTINGHAM, MD—On Thursday morning, Baltimore County Councilman David Marks provided an update on the Gerst Farm property.
Councilman Marks sent the following to NottinghamMD.com:
For five years, I have blocked development of the Gerst Farm in Perry Hall. In 2015, I blocked a proposed Planned Unit Department that included a blend of apartments, townhouses, and single-family homes that would have greatly impacted our public schools. At the time, Honeygo Elementary School was not even under construction and there were no plans for a new middle school.
In 2016, I reduced the density on the site to one house per acre, the lowest level allowed for residential development in Perry Hall. By contrast, the Glenside Farms and Moores Orchard developments were built in the 1990s at a significantly higher level of development.
I subsequently formed a task force to examine options for the Gerst Farm. We asked the task force to prioritize the following: maximize open space and greenways; develop housing that attracts senior citizens; strengthen businesses at the Honeygo Village Center; and improve connectivity between neighborhoods and the area road network. The developer of the site met with the task force many times, and I personally met with homeowners associations throughout the summer.
This week, the developer submitted a plan to Baltimore County, and before I could share the proposal with the community, posted a sign at the site. The application can be found here.
Here are my thoughts on this property.
First, the land will be developed at some point. It will not remain a goat farm. In downzoning the land, Baltimore County impacted the property rights of the family that has owned the land for generations. Every adjacent farmer has sold their land for development for projects such as Glenside Farms, the Honeygo Village Center, and Moores Orchard.
Second, should this proposal be approved, the start of any development is at least three years in the future. The new northeastern middle school will advance during that time. Perry Hall High School is not overcapacity, but we are close to securing a site for a new high school in the White Marsh area.
Third, senior housing constitutes about 44 percent of the proposed development – low-rise villas with ground-floor master bedrooms. The plan from 2015 had no dedicated senior housing. Nearly one-quarter of Baltimore County’s population includes seniors, and I have heard repeatedly that seniors want a low-rise option for living in Perry Hall. This is a luxury housing project that includes no rentals.
Fourth, Baltimore County has reached out to the family that owns the property where the deteriorating Perry Hall Community Hall is located. The county is interested in securing this land as open space now that the development plan has expired. The wooded area to the north of the Gerst Farm project would be added to Honeygo Park. About 35 percent of the farm would remain as open space.
Fifth, I will be reaching out to the Department of Public Works to determine how Gerst Road can be improved as this project advances. There is an opportunity to implement traffic calming and pedestrian improvements on Gerst Road and the connections to the Honeygo Village Center.
Finally, because the project is proposed as a Planned Unit Development, no further review will occur until approved by the County Council. The project does not advance without a County Council resolution, and the resolution can set restrictions and conditions on the development.
The developer has scheduled a meeting to brief the community on the proposal. The meeting is scheduled for February 6th at 7 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn (5015 Campbell Boulevard). I am prohibited from attending due to language in the county charter, but will be meeting with community leaders to determine the next steps.
I grew up in Perry Hall, attended Chapel Hill Elementary School, and remember when none of the current Honeygo area was developed. I know change is difficult, and most people would prefer for no development at this site – but I would prefer for a development plan to be approved with clear limitations than allowing more dense and unrestricted growth in the future.
Councilman David Marks