Board of Appeals Enters Judgment Against Developer in Chestnut Ridge Golf Course Reclassification Case


The Baltimore County Board of Appeals has declined to reverse the decision of the County Council to rezone the former Chestnut Ridge Country Club property enacted during the 2012 quadrennial Comprehensive Zoning Map Process (CZMP).  This will leave the developable density for the property at a maximum of 9 houses.


In 2012 the County Council changed the zoning of the 232 acre former Chestnut Ridge Country Club property from RC5 (maximum development) to RC7 (environmental preservation). Shortly thereafter, the owner of the property, hoping to subdivide the Property into as many as 85 lots, petitioned the County to reclassify the Property to RC5, claiming that the County Council’s action was a mistake.

Last summer, after the developer finally finished putting on all its evidence, the Community asked the County Board of Appeals to dismiss the Petition. The Community argued that, even if the Board accepted all the evidence as true, the developer could not prevail.

This morning the three member Board panel deliberated in public. The non-lawyer member stated that he thought the Petitioner’s evidence was overwhelming and that he was convinced the Council’s decision to change the zoning of the property was wrong and should be changed.

The next member of the Board to speak said that, although he basically agreed with the first speaker, as a Maryland lawyer, he understood the law, in particular the 1995 Beachwood case (107 Md. App. 627), to be clear and controlling and that the BOA was not permitted to reclassify the zoning of the Property.

The Board chair, Maureen Murphy, Esquire, then spoke at length. She summarized relevant MD law, emphasizing the instructions of the Beachwood case:

— the BOA “may not substitute its judgment for that of the County Council,”

— even a finding by BOA that the zoning decision “of the County Council under review was wrong, ill-advised, or unsuitable is not an adequate finding of an actual mistake or error,”

— the burden is on the Petitioner “to show both 1) the then-existing conditions that allegedly made the comprehensive zoning incorrect and also 2) the literal failure of the County Council even to have considered those conditions,”

— It is presumed that at the time of the adoption of zoning, “the Council had before it and did, in fact, consider all of the relevant facts and circumstances then existing.”

Accordingly, the Board voted 2 to 1 to grant the Motions and enter Judgment against the developer. The developer may, of course, appeal the decision. Moreover, the developer is asserting tremendous pressure on the County Executive, Council, and particularly 2nd District Council Member Vicky Almond to allow the destruction of this incredibly beautiful and environmentally sensitive land.

Chestnut Ridge Country Club community update – October 2013


As many of you know, the Valleys Planning Council, along with the Falls Road Community Association and a number of organizations and individuals, supported the downzoning of the Chestnut Ridge Country Club property during the 2012 CZMP. The 232-acre property on Falls Road just sought of Padonia/Broadway was ultimately downzoned from RC5 to RC7, and that downzoning is now being challenged. The issue is a hot one, with battles on multiple fronts. During the rezoning cycle, Councilwoman Vicki Almond received an outpouring of calls, letters and emails regarding the property and made the courageous decision to downzone the property in an effort to protect Dipping Pond Run and curb the pressure on existing infrastructure already bursting at the seams. Those that support the new, more restrictive zoning are joining together to oppose an attempt to undo the zoning change and reinstate the former RC5 zoning. We hope you will join us in these efforts to maintain the more restrictive RC7 zoning. We believe our case is strong and that the evidence is clear that there was no error committed on the part of the Baltimore County Council. Below is a brief summary of what has transpired and what is coming next.


November 2011

Chestnut Ridge Country Club, a 230-acre property on Falls Road, closed after 50 years of operation.

February 2012

Chestnut Ridge Country Club purchased by Armando Cignarale, a local developer who runs Cignal Corp. The property was purchased for $5.3 million with no contingencies regarding its future development.

August 2012

Baltimore County Council downzoned the Chestnut Ridge Country Club Property, changing the zoning from RC5 to RC7. This changed the maximum residential density from 114 homes to 9 homes.

December 2012

Owner/developer of CRCC filed suit against Baltimore County in the Circuit Court, suing for $10 million and a return to the RC5 zoning. In May 2013, the Circuit Court dismissed the lawsuit after the county argued that the developer should have exhausted the county’s administrative appeals process first.

February 2013

Owner/developer of CRCC filed a Petition for Reclassification with the Baltimore County Board of Appeals, claiming that the County Council made an error in changing the zoning on the property from RC5 to RC7.

 June 2013

Adopting the position of the Baltimore County planning staff, the County Planning Board advised the County Board of Appeals that the County Council made an error in downzoning the property. The Planning Board brushed aside Maryland law and legal arguments with regard to the magnitude of “error” required to justify reclassification overriding the County Council’s vote. Instead the Planning Board simply reiterated its recommendation during the 2012 CZMP that the zoning should be maintained as RC5.

Upcoming Actions

October 2013

The case before the Board of Appeals will begin. The hearing will open on October 30; however, the developer’s attorneys have said they plan to open the case, file an amended petition, and ask for a delay until December.

October 28, 2013

The developer and county will hold a Community Input Meeting at 7 p.m. on a proposed 8-lot plan under the existing RC7 zoning. The meeting was scheduled for the same date and time as the FRCA annual meeting. (The developer hopes to go forward with a 60-70 lot plan if he can get the zoning changed, but this is an interim or fallback plan that could be approved under the current zoning.) The meeting will be held at the Mays Chapel Methodist Church on Jennifer Road in Timonium.

November 4, 2013

The developer and county will hold a second Community Input Meeting at 7 p.m. on a proposed 8-lot plan under the existing RC7 zoning. The meeting will be held at the Mays Chapel Methodist Church on Jennifer Road in Timonium. A second meeting was scheduled due to the conflict with the FRCA meeting.

December 2013

The Board of Appeals case goes forward. Dates scheduled for the hearing are: December 10, 11, 17, and 18.

You Can Help

Many residents took the time to contact Councilwoman Almond during the 2012 CZMP to express their concern about future development of the property and requesting a downzoning. Your continued expressions of support are needed. Our most pressing need at the moment is to raise funds for the legal and expert fees associated with the upcoming Board of Appeals hearing. Please consider sending in a tax-deductible contribution to the VPC for this project today. We need to raise $15,000 in the next six weeks to see us through this first and most important phase. If everyone who is concerned chips in, we will have sufficient resources. Special project contributions are used exclusively for legal and expert fees associated with the case. VPC has engaged the services of attorney Richard Burch for the zoning reclassification case.

Please make a tax-deductible donation to this special project today by sending a check to:

The Valleys Planning Council

PO Box 5402

Towson, Maryland 20185

Write “Chestnut Ridge” in check memo line.


Referendum to Overturn All District 2 CZMP Decisions (which would restore RC5 to Chestnut Ridge)

On a related front, VPC has joined with several other groups to oppose the Referendum initiative that has been spearheaded by the developers opposed to the Solo Cup site redevelopment known as Foundry Row. Several developers displeased with zoning changes in the last cycle are supporting that effort. Those seeking the Referendum hope to put an issue on the 2014 election ballot with the goal of overturning all District 2 CZMP decisions. If the referendum were successful, the changes to Chestnut Ridge and other zoning changes in District 2 would be overturned, restoring the prior zoning.

Many residents reported questionable tactics and misleading information during the petition drive. The Board of Elections found the petitions “deficient” and denied the request to put the item to referendum. Those seeking the referendum have filed an appeal of that decision with the Circuit Court. The VPC and other parties have filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, believing that the parties filing the appeal do not have standing. The Circuit Court case has been assigned to Judge Alexander. A scheduling conference is set for October 23rd and a Motions Hearing is set for November 26 at 9:30 a.m. Attorney J. Carroll Holzer is representing the VPC, the Meadows HOA, and the Greater Greenspring Association. VPC is not requesting funds for the referendum case but is very much in need of funds for the reclassification case. 

For additional info, call the Valleys Planning Council office at 401-337-6877.

Chestnut Ridge Country Club sold, CZMP rezoning in progress


For many years Chestnut Ridge Country Club (CRCC) has been a golf, tennis, and swimming club on 232 acres of the most beautiful land in Baltimore County.The Club is off Falls Road just south of Broadway, near the highest point of the entire Jones Falls watershed. Indeed, the property has 5 ponds and is drained by three unnamed tributaries that flow into Dipping Pond Run.

Between 1989 and 1993 the Club engaged in a pattern of illegal actions which caused catastrophic harm to the Run. Prior to the Club’s acts, MD DNR had identified the Run as boasting the last self- sustaining population of brook trout in the Jones Falls watershed. After a series of legal confrontations with the community, the Club’s behavior improved.

Club purchased by developer

Last year, the Club was unable to make payments on its considerable debt which was recently purchased by a company controlled by a developer, Armando Cignarale.

At the request of the Valleys Planning Council and the FRCA, Council member and now Chair Vicki Almond, representing the second councilmanic district, has raised the Club property as an issue in the County 2012 Comprehensive Zoning Map Process as issue 2-031. As a result, at the first Council meeting of September 2012 Councilmember Almond can, with the advice and consent of the other Council members, set the zoning of the Club property howsoever she desires.

Currently the property is zoned entirely RC5 (rural residential). Thus, under County law a developer would be permitted theoretically to build 155 houses. Because of the property is so extraordinarily environmentally sensitive with at least five ponds, three steams, numerous steep slopes and wetlands, it seems doubtful that the County would permit even close to that number of lots.

Impact to the community and environment

Imagine if there were even another 100 households added to our community. How long would it take to drive from the traffic light at Broadway/Padonia and Falls to the Beltway at 8 am on a weekday?  What might it be like to drive from that same intersection east on Padonia to York Road during the evening rush hour?

Consider the devastating impact to the streams, fish, and the rest of the environment from numerous construction sites exposing bare earth and dumping silt into the streams.  How much sediment will flow down those steep slopes and straight into Dipping Pond Run to the Jones Falls to the Harbor to the Bay?

Preserving the character of Chestnut Ridge

It is the position of many of the community residents and therefore, that of the FRCA, that changing the zoning designation to RC7 is necessary to maintain the existing character and livability of the community.  Details about the RC7 zoning classification can be found in the Citizens Guide to Planning and Zoning, in the Introduction, Rural Zones section.

What you can do

If the zoning of the property were to be changed to RC7 (resource preservation) in recognition of its extremely sensitive environment, the maximum number of lots permitted would be a fraction of those that will in fact be created if the property remains RC5 (rural residential).

To provide input regarding your community, to the one person who will be making this decision, Councilman Almond, please contact her at 410-887-3385 or

Additionally, the FRCA will be pursuing its mission to monitor the progress of this issue and disseminate information to the residents of the community, enabling them to make their voices heard in matters that affect the quality of our lives in this part of Baltimore County.

Please attend our next meeting, the date and time of which will be posted in the near future.

CZMP: Hunt Valley Presbyterian Church seeks change in zoning

Hunt Valley Presbyterian Church at 13015 Beaver Dam Road, Hunt Valley, MD 21030  has filed an issue to downzone its property from RC-4 to RC-3.  The church’s request is designated as issue 3-038 in the 3rd councilmanic district in the 2012 CZMP.

The church has informed its neighbors, via a letter, of its plan for growth.  Community members who attended the meeting with church representatives informed the FRCA of the church’s intention to double the size of the building on the 26.57 acre church property, potentially adding 15,000 square feet and additional parking.

Some neighbors have contacted the FRCA and expressed their concerns with the church’s plans to expand, recalling the original conflict with the community when the church was constructed in 1998.