More than 50 Glen Burnie residents, armed with petitions and toddlers in tow, packed a zoning hearing yesterday to protest a proposed town house development.
But they never had a chance to argue their case.
Before the residents could voice their opposition, Robert C. Wilcox, the county's zoning administrator, denied the zoning changes needed to build seven clustered town homes off Glen Oak Lane.
The property owners, Alexander and Eldora Graboski, were seeking a special exemption to develop town homes in an R-5 residential district.
They also needed a variance because the 1.38-acre site is far less than the 10 acres required for clustered zoning.
Consultants for the Graboskis argued that the couple chose a clustered project to preserve open space and "minimize the impact" of building in the small neighborhood tucked behind the commercial strip on Crain Highway.
The couple wanted to avoid building six single houses with separate driveways on Glen Oak Lane, an extremely narrow street between Lee Oldsmobile and Maple Lane, said Daniel Boyd, an engineer hired by the Graboskis.
Wilcox agreed that a clustered development might be more ideal, but said he could find no legal grounds to grant the variance. Under the county's zoning laws, property owners must prove they can't otherwise develop the land to qualify for an exemption.
"Quite frankly, I think town houses might be the way to go. But I have to say right up front, I don't find any basis for the variance in this case," he said.
His ruling cut the hearing short just before residents could testify against the zoning changes. Neighbors from Glen Oak Lane and surrounding streets, who feared the development would dramatically increase traffic congestion, took time off from work yesterday to attend the hearing in Annapolis.
Although they left smiling, many residents already were gearing up for the next round.
Eldora Graboski said yesterday that she wouldn't appeal the zoning decision, but intends to move ahead with building "six or seven single-family houses." She and her husband have decided to develop the site to offset high property taxes, Graboski said.
The couple must file subdivision plans and show the community has adequate facilities and a strong enough drainage system to handle the project, said Richard Josephson, a county planner.
Neighbors have worried that construction will disturb a swale cutting across the property, worsening poor drainage in the area.
Graboski, who previously warned she would simply build government-subsidized homes for low-income families if the zoning request was denied, did not repeat her threat yesterday. She also said she has not decided whether to keep an old home now standing on the property. The couple's original plans called for razing the sagging, two-story home.