Sparrows Point CC to Downsize for Residential Development

By | November 14th, 2017

Under the plan, nine of the Baltimore, Md., club’s 27 holes of golf would be eliminated to make room for 312 townhouses, detached homes, and villas, leaving an 18-hole course. The club’s marina and boat slips, pool, and clubhouse would remain.

Sparrows Point Country Club in Baltimore, Md., which has been in business for nearly 100 years, is planning to eliminate one-third of its golf course to make room for more than 300 townhouses, detached homes and villas on its waterfront property, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Citing the financial strain of declining membership, the club is asking Baltimore County for approval to build the homes to keep the club afloat—and take advantage of the area’s resurgence stemming from development of the Tradepoint Atlantic industrial campus, the Sun reported.

The club is grappling with financial challenges also faced by other clubs, said General Manager Joe Roux. Selling off some land for development will bring an infusion of cash that can be used to upgrade the facilities, the Sun reported.

“It’s the same issues all country clubs are dealing with,” said Roux, who joined the club this summer. “Finding ways to upgrade your facilities to attract new members and finding ways to do that without raising dues and assessments.”

The club started exploring the idea of residential development more than a decade ago, but planning stalled after the economic downturn of 2008. In 2012, the club had part of the property rezoned to accommodate about 210 homes. Additional approval is needed now because the new plan proposes 312 homes, according to documents filed with the county, the Sun reported.

Club members say they are motivated by the burgeoning success of Tradepoint Atlantic, which is located on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel mill at Sparrows Point. Officials of the steel company founded the club back in the 1920s, which moved to its current location in 1954. In 1985, Bethlehem Steel sold the club to its members and non-mill employees were allowed to join for the first time, the Sun reported.

“When Tradepoint Atlantic took over the old Sparrows Point plant and they were looking at creating all those new jobs, we realized it was an opportunity for the development—for people to buy new houses and for the club itself to get new members,” said Ron Belbot, a Middle River resident who is president of the club’s board of directors.

Officials with the club say they met with about 20 potential developers and builders before settling on Craftsmen Development of Glen Burnie. The club and Craftsmen have entered into a partnership for the project, but the terms have not been disclosed, the Sun reported.

Belbot said the development will buoy the club’s finances and allow the club to make upgrades that will attract more families to join. “The place was built in the ’50s and it really had not been updated,” said Belbot. “It needed an awful lot of capital improvements to the point it would not reasonably ever be paid for by the membership.”

The development, Country Club Estates, would include townhouses along the front of the property, with detached homes spreading around the golf course toward Bear Creek. The development would include 193 townhouses with garages, 66 detached homes and 53 waterfront villas, the Sun reported.

Nine of the club’s 27 holes of golf would be eliminated to make room for the homes, leaving an 18-hole course. The club’s marina and boat slips, pool and clubhouse would remain. Belbot said it was a difficult, but necessary, decision to downsize the course. About 75 acres of the 195-acre property would be developed, the Sun reported.

The property is governed by a mishmash of zoning classifications, including residential, business, industrial and resource conservation. The club is asking the Baltimore County Council to allow the project to go through the county’s planned-use development process, which would allow a greater number of units in exchange for a project that offers benefits to the community, the Sun reported.

As part of the community benefit provision, Craftsmen Developers is pledging to spend $100,000 on projects in the Dundalk-Sparrows Point area. The proposals include contributing to an effort to relocate the Aquila Randall Monument, which commemorates a Maryland Militia member who was killed in the War of 1812. The 200-year-old monument is believed to be the among the oldest military monuments in the country, the Sun reported.

Other community benefit proposals include adding community signs in North Point Village, installing kayak launches at Battle Grove Park and the Edgemere Senior Center, extending water service to the Todd’s Inheritance historic site and improving stormwater controls around the club. Now that the planned-unit development application has been filed, a community input meeting will be scheduled, the Sun reported.

After that, the next step would be for the the County Council to pass a resolution in support of the project, which would allow it to continue through the approval process. The decision of whether to consider such a resolution rests with Councilman Todd Crandell, a Dundalk Republican who represents the area. Crandell said he supports the general concept of the club’s plan, the Sun reported.

“Having a high-end residential community with houses as much as half a million dollars or more is a huge shot in the arm,” he said. “We’re talking about a golf course community with a marina and a restaurant, all on the water. To me, it’s a great opportunity for Dundalk.”

In addition to needing county approvals, the development would need approvals from the state’s Critical Area Commission, which sets rules for developments along the waterfront of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and creeks. The property has a Critical Area Commission designation that limits potential development. The project would need that designation changed to allow intense development to move forward, the Sun reported.

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