The County Commissioners have rejected a rezoning request that wouldhave paved the way for 108 luxury homes and an 18-hole golf course on a 360-acre South Carroll farm.
In an announcement this morning, the commissioners are expected to outline their reasons for turning down the request of Montgomery County-based Woodfield Partnership, thedevelopers who have an option to buy the farm owned since 1928 by a prominent Eldersburg-area farming family.
While none of the commissioners would comment directly about their decision -- arrived at privately last week between staff meetings -- sources close to the case indicate that they did not want to weakenthe county's Master Plan, further erode the county's agricultural base, or permit additional strain on roadways, schools and other services.
"We were all pretty well agreed on what we wanted to do," Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said when asked about the decision. "While I can't tell you what it was, it wasn't an easy decision to make. We feel confident in the decision."
When they do announce the decision at 9:15 this morning at the County Office Building, the commissioners will bring to a conclusion Carroll's largest rezoning petition ever.
Two four-hour hearings over the last two months attracted more than 100 people and dozens of expert witnesses. The rezoningcase pitted Woodfield and farmers Claude R., Edwin E. and Glen I. Rash against the county and state planning offices.
The rezoning is opposed by planners, who fear any alteration to the county's Master Plan could end up eroding Carroll's agricultural community.
Attempts to reach Claude R. Rash yesterday were unsuccessful. Woodfield's Westminster attorney, J. Brooks Leahy, said he had not received word ofthe decision and declined comment.
What the commissioners had to weigh in their decision was whether a mistake was made in the zoning ordinance and if a change in the neighborhood surrounding the Rash farm has taken place since the 1978 update of the county's plan.
By turning down the rezoning, the commissioners have not killed the proposed development outright. Woodfield's plans call for a $3.5 million golf course surrounded by $300,000 homes. The development could generate as much as $409,300 a year in property and other tax revenue as well as $540,000 in one-time impact fees.
Woodfield has several options, according to Leahy. The developers have had what is called a text amendment to the county's zoning ordinance pending for several years. That would enable the golf course development to proceed without fully changing the county's Master Plan, and it would apply just to the Rash property. But approval of a text amendment also is consideredunlikely.
Or, Leahy said, Woodfield could appeal the commissioners' decision, or even drop plans for the development altogether.
"Ireally haven't had a chance to talk to them, so I don't know what direction they would take," Leahy said.
Woodfield has insisted that the property's current agricultural zoning is restrictive and is a mistake, and has said unless that zoning is changed, the likelihood of any development on the property is slim.