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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.

Brad Nicholson October 20, 2011 at 12:38 PM
Looked @ Google Maps (Satellite View) to see how the traffic pattern referenced in this article was was laid out. Didn't know there was a private jet airplane parked behind Chapel Hill Elem School on a baseball diamond. [snicker, snicker] Is it Perry Hall Patch's "corporate" jet?
Emily Kimball (Editor) October 20, 2011 at 01:28 PM
Surprisingly, a corporate jet did not come with my Perry Hall Patch equipment, although I did get a laptop and iPhone.
Trish D October 20, 2011 at 01:30 PM
I believe the folks on New Gerst have paid their fair share of taxes to warrant public services, why not place some large plants in front of the barriers.
Noel Knepper October 20, 2011 at 02:39 PM
Why not replace it with the same barrier, but one that is not in pieces and falling apart? I just drove by (I live in a neighborhood connected to this neighborhood) and it looks dangerous to kids and just plain ugly!
BD October 20, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Could they make New Gerst one way and remove the barriers? People may ignore the one way signs, but that would create a temporary solution that technically speaking would prevent two cars from trying to pass each other. Looking at Google maps, I agree that there is not much point to cutting in or out of New Gerst.
Emily Kimball (Editor) October 20, 2011 at 03:16 PM
@Brad Nicholson, I think we solved the mystery: PHOTO: What's a Jet Doing Outside Chapel Hill Elementary?, http://patch.com/A-nb6z.
PAA October 20, 2011 at 04:34 PM
While the County could have taken into consideration that it's a residential neighborhood and done a better job selecting barriers that didn't appear broken and in poor condition...and probably could have done a better job positioning them...Can't the offended residents pool together to buy a can or tow of paint and some brushes...or some flowers or shrubs to dress it up? After all...It is their neighborhood. The County provided a funcitonal solution. It's up to all of us to keep our neighborhoods clean and attractive. These are newer houses, so I bet they have a community association. The offended residents should take it to their community association and suggest a beautification project to benefit their community...not try to make it the County's problem. Just my two cents.
Emily Kimball (Editor) October 20, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Thank you all for commenting. Tomorrow, we're going to go into the county's response and future plans more in depth.
Jennifer Lucchesi-Parker October 20, 2011 at 06:52 PM
These barriers have also created a problem with 911 responders. When you call 911, they are provided with directions to Good Spring and the adjacent Forge Landing community, for the emergency vehicles to drive up to New Gerst to get to Good Spring. However, when the emergency responders do this, there are faced with the road block and the families needing assistance, call 911 back only to have them asking for directions on how to get back into the communities. Why do you think the home on Forge Haven had trouble obtaining assistance immediately?
Amk October 20, 2011 at 09:09 PM
We have had the Fire Dept. and the Police Dept. say that they would never use New Gerst Lane to reach the adjacent developments because there are five other roads that can more efficiently handle their emergency equipment. The 2 houses in the new development should have their addresses corrected to be Good Spring Drive. Their addresses were somehow incorrectly assigned as New Gerst Lane, but they are houses built as part of that development. When the barriers were down, I witnessed on a daily basis drivers from the adjacent deveoplments speeding 35 to 40 mph on New Gerst Lane with reckless disregard for the residents who live on that street. When they would encounter oncoming traffic, they would either slam on their brakes, drive onto residents' lawns, or just sit to make the residents' of New Gerst Lane pull over. I can assure you these eye-witness accounts were not exaggerated. The situation was "an accident waiting to happen". The people living in the new developments have new paved roads wide enough for two-way traffic, street lights, and sidewalks. These roads lead to all main arteries out of their neighborhoods very conveniently. New Gerst Lane should not be an option for them until improvements are made to widen it.
D U October 20, 2011 at 11:39 PM
If the developer/county won't put up more attractive barriers why don't we just give the children of the neighborhood some acrylic art paint and let them go at it! I'm sure they would enjoy it and it will look beautiful when they are done. In reference to the 911 statements we have spoken to the fine people at White Marsh Fire Dept (formally Cowenton FD) and they have informed us that they would never try to use New Gerst Lane to access Good Spring. Oh and BTW we have paid more than enough in taxes to warrant public services
Tracey October 21, 2011 at 02:14 AM
what about a guard rail like the one marking the end of Klausmier at Gun View, or at the end of Gunview ends at Fox Farm just behind Gundpowder Elementary?
Ngl Oak October 21, 2011 at 04:51 AM
It’s funny you would use this line to convince an unsuspecting women at Balt.Co. that she had possible done something wrong and caused the loss of a person’s life to have the blockade removed the first time. Perhaps you should be honest w/ everyone and state your true intentions. I personally have found the greatest violators of speeding on New Gerst La. Were women & teenagers. We have had to warn numerous teenagers to slow down and even stopped them from proceeding until they got the picture. There was an agreement made w/ Balt.Co. during the pre-development stage w/ related road opening use etc. over the many years of each of the surrounding developments and this is the first agreement being upheld as we the residence are standing up for the safety of all. Until everyone complaining about the closure of the road they should try to understand what the residences of New Gerst Lane have gone thru & the history of the public meetings. Revision request to meeting minutes that were refused to because they were evidently not in the best interest of the contractor (fortunately that person is no longer w/ Balt. Co. Roads that were not to be used for construction, heavy equipment hauling & transporting. Years of blasting, heavy equipment, trucks on such a small road, rock crushing, dust, debris, etc.; Get The Picture Yet!! The developers totally abused the residence of New Gerst La. and were not will to make any concessions to try & blend w/ the existing surroundings.
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 (Editor) 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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