Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Glider Dispute Permit Controversy Returned To Zoning Board

October 07, 1990|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

WOODBINE - The zoning dispute over a small, grass airstrip in South Carroll will not land before the nation's highest court.

Attorneys involved in the legal tussle over the Woodbine Glider Port were notified last week that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied a request that it hear the 8-year-old legal dispute over the airstrip.

In July, the County Commissioners, along with residents opposed to a glider-ride business that operates at the airstrip off Gillis Falls Road, filed a request with the Supreme Court to hear the case, which originated from a zoning board decision limiting flight traffic at the airport.

Opponents of the glider port had appealed an April decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, that said a lower court had erred in a May 1989 ruling that a local government can impose airway restrictions on a small airport's zoning permit.

But on Wednesday, attorneys received a tersely worded statement, dated Oct. 1, saying the request had been denied by the Supreme Court.

Now the whole matter returns to the Carroll County Zoning Board, which must rule on whether to issue a new permit for the airstrip, after it revoked the original one in 1982.

"It's disappointing, but it's not over," said John T. Willis, an attorney with the Baltimore law firm Weinberg and Green, which is representing the residents and the county.

"The board can now decide to deny the application in its entirety or to grant it," he said.

David K. Bowersox, an attorney with Dulaney, Parker & Scott, a Westminster law firm representing the owner of the airstrip and the operator of the glider business, said he was pleased with the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case.

"It's not a surprise to me that they denied it," he said.

For years, area residents have complained that Bay Soaring Inc., the glider-ride business, poses a nuisance and a safety hazard to the surrounding neighborhoods. They demanded the county zoning board amend the airstrip's zoning permit to restrict operating hours and the number of flights.

Bay Soaring countered by saying that only the Federal Aviation Administration could regulate the airways, not a local zoning board. The landowner, Robert E. Harrison, also said that the county erred when it revoked his original conditional-use permit, arguing that he was never in violation of the permit's two requirements.

The matter began in 1972, when the county zoning board issued Harrison a permit to operate an airstrip on his 172-acre farm. A sky-diving club used the strip initially, before Bay Soaring began operation there in 1981.

After revoking the initial permit in 1982, the county zoning board issued another, this one with conditions regulating flight paths, takeoffs and operating hours.

Bay Soaring appealed to Circuit Court, claiming the county had no business regulating airways.

Willis said he didn't expect the zoning board to resume working on the matter until early 1991.

There have been several injuries and deaths over the years at the airstrip, both from the glider business and the previous sky-diving operation.

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