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Part 1: Perry Hall Neighbors Divided Over Concrete Barriers

Jersey barricades between Good Spring Drive and New Gerst Lane have led to a long-standing dispute.

Read more about the neighborhood dispute in .

For five years Terri Smith has lived in her new, single-family house on a lush quarter-acre plot in Perry Hall. The house, built in 2006 and once valued at more than $700,000, stands in the 9700 block of Good Spring Drive in the neighborhood.

The scent of freshly cut grass and cookouts permeate the backyards of Glenside Overlook. Children play safely outdoors after dusk as parents stroll by pushing strollers. New, uncracked sidewalks are canvases for colorful chalk art.

But where this tranquil neighborhood ends, a dispute begins.

The problem? Three crumbling, paint-peeling concrete barriers that mark an abrupt end to Good Spring Drive and the beginning, on the other side, of New Gerst Lane.

The barriers have caused a rift between new residents such as Smith on Good Spring Drive and the longtime inhabitants of New Gerst Lane. They have also left county officials at odds on the best solu­tion.

Which side are you on? Are the barriers justified, or are they an eyesore that should be removed? Tell us in the comments.

In multiple complaints to Baltimore County officials this past spring, Smith demanded the removal of the Jersey barricades that mark the border between Good Spring Drive and New Gerst Lane.
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"This ugly state of limbo has gone on far too long," she wrote in her complaint.

During the construction of Glenside Overlook in 2006, the developer connected the newly carved Good Spring Drive to older New Gerst Lane, a single-lane, previously dead-end road that is home to seven houses built between the 1930s and 1980s. Unlike Good Spring Drive, New Gerst Lane is a narrow county-maintained stretch that has no painted lines, no curbs and no sidewalks.

While pavement connected the two roads, New Gerst Lane lacked the width and infrastructure to support any additional traffic from Good Spring Drive. The developer, under the direction of county officials, blocked the entrance to New Gerst Lane using plastic barriers, said Stephen Weber, chief of the county Division of Traffic Engineering.

By the end of 2006, however, residents of New Gerst Lane reported that Good Spring Drive residents had begun moving the plastic barriers and, in some cases, driving on residents' lawns to gain access to New Gerst Lane, which connects to Gerst Road, according to Weber.

Denise Uhrin, a resident of New Gerst Lane since 1986, said she witnessed drivers illegally passing from Good Spring Drive to New Gerst Lane during this time.

“Yes, they used the road—there was no room,” Uhrin said. “You cannot pass each other without pulling into someone’s yard. … It needed to be blocked off.”

In response to reports of such actions, the Department of Public Works placed large concrete barriers between the two roads.

In a written complaint, Smith claimed that reports were exaggerated by New Gerst Lane residents "who have enjoyed the benefits of a private road with publicly funded maintenance, snow plowing, curb-side trash pick-up, mail delivery, etc."

"We are not happy that our tax dollars are being used for what amounts to a private road for the residents of New Gerst," Smith said.

Amy Fox, a neighbor of Smith, also said the reports were exaggerated.

"We have no reason to even use that road," Fox said, adding that several alternate routes provide easy access to main connectors, including East Joppa Road and Forge Road.

Neighbors from Good Spring have no desire to drive on the road, Smith said. They are simply asking for a more attractive barrier or none at all.

Uhrin, however, said she isn’t bothered by the barriers’ appearance “because I don’t sweat the small stuff.”  

“Just leave it be,” said Uhrin of New Gerst Lane. “I don’t come over there to cause havoc.”

Uhrin added that her experiences with Good Spring Drive residents have been positive but that tensions escalate when the barriers are mentioned.

“I don’t mind the moms who walk or jog [New Gerst Lane] with their strollers. It’s just a few select people causing problems,” she said.

Smith, however, said she didn't wanted to be just another homeowner causing problems. She wanted real change and had hoped to find it with the help of county government.

To her disappointment, however, officials differed on solutions.

While wants the barriers removed or replaced, public works officials prefer the status quo until a new housing development is built.

Marks, in an email to Patch, wrote that his ability to fix the barricade problem was limited.

"I personally agree that the barricades should be removed or replaced with structures that are more attractive, but the Department of Public Works insists they are necessary for public safety," Marks said. "I've disagreed with the department in the past."

Weber, of the county Division of Traffic Engineering, told Patch that the barriers' appearance was not a priority because they are only a temporary solution. Something had to be done to stop Good Spring Drive residents from entering New Gerst Lane, he said.

“They were trespassing and running over people’s property," Weber said. “It’s a choice between an aesthetic one and a functional one. We had to have something that could not be moved.”

In written complaints, Smith has requested that the barriers be replaced with a metal gate or sign posts, but Weber said those wouldn’t be functional in a “temporary scenario.”

He suggested that the county could paint the concrete pieces to improve their appearance, adding, “I wouldn't describe them as crumbling.”

The barriers are expected to remain only until New Gerst Lane is widened and improved. But, Weber said, there is no indication when that will be accomplished.

In the meantime, residents on both sides are left to wait on a resolution that is almost entirely outside of their control.

Read more about the neighborhood dispute in Part 2: Road to Unity Hinges on Stalled Development.

Which side are you on? Is the county justified in leaving up the barriers, or are they an eyesore that should be removed? Tell us in the comments.

Ngl Oak October 21, 2011 at 05:11 AM
David Marks has always been a good supporter on numerous community issues, but that was before he was an elected official, however, he should have a solution and a budget before he makes a statement such as he wants the barrier removed. Is this the political choice or the wants of the majority over rule the needs and safety of the minority. I hope he can remember it is not always about votes. Then again the squeaky wheel always gets the grease. New Gerst La. residences need to continue being noisy.
Ngl Oak October 21, 2011 at 05:17 AM
That is the ghost of the previous owner! Didn’t you know this was an airport before the houses were planted? =)
Ngl Oak October 21, 2011 at 05:41 AM
Terri Smith should take a long hard look around her house & neighbors and then look at New Gerst La. We are not suburbanites nor do we really want to be, we are a rural area being pushed aside. You have sidewalks, curb & gutters, parking on the street, school busses, good water pressure all supported by taxes not just yours! It took 17 years to get a bus to pick up students on Gerst Rd. and the water pressure on New Gerst La. has and remains deplorable. Public works does not see a problem but that is another story; Perhaps Ms. Kimball could do a story on that! A fact the complainers should know, The residences on the North side of New Gerst La. actually own the land beneath the road and the county owns the surface materials. This was an agreement Balto. Co. made to bring water in and get everyone off wells. Balt. Co. has stated if the land owners want they can make the road private & forgoe maintenance & trash removal along the street. So beware, you may get more then you bargain for!
Emily Kimball October 21, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Read more about the neighborhood dispute in Part 2: Road to Unity Hinges on Stalled Development, http://patch.com/A-lW1z.
LalainMaryland October 22, 2011 at 12:27 AM
Are you saying that since Councilman Marks has been elected he no longer supports the community? If so you are sadly mistaken. The article clearly says he wants them removed or REPLACED. Perhaps you should quote the entire statement and not just the part that you want to use?! That is a "spin factor" if ever I've seen one. And if you are implying that he would subject anyone to a lack of safety, you've clearly never met the man nor benefitted from his work. He gives up time with his own family to represent the people of this community. Shame on you Nigel.

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