LINEBORO — Homeowners have banded to oppose a church retreat proposed for Schalk Road and to challenge the recent county zoning amendment that allows such centers.
The Sugar Valley Community Association has hired aWestminster attorney to oppose a zoning application filed by Full Gospel American Mission Church members, who have proposed building prayer, conference, living and recreational facilities on 22 acres.
Residents of the 18-lot Gunpowder Ridge subdivision say the retreat could have adverse environmental impacts, produce increased traffic and change the community's character. They also argue that the property agreement they signed when they moved to the rural subdivision restricts development to single-family dwellings.
The residents requested and were granted a postponement in the Board of Zoning Appealshearing, which had been scheduled for Aug. 23, giving their attorneytime to build a case.
John F. and Songhui Heiderman of Baltimore and Man Kun Lee of Bel Air, Harford County, have applied for a zoningexemption to build the facility on 3 acres of the 22-acre tract, which is zoned for conservation. The $250,000 purchase contract they signed is contingent on receiving county approval for the retreat.
The church is associated with the Assembly of God, said John Heiderman.Most of the congregants are Korean and Korean-American families fromthe Baltimore area, he said. Heiderman estimated about 50 people would use the facility on weekends.
Gunpowder Ridge resident Robert Foor-Hogue, an organizer of the community association, said he is concerned that construction of a multibuilding complex on the property, much of which is steeply sloped, could harm the quality of nearby Gunpowder Falls, a trout stream. The stream flows to the Prettyboy Reservoir and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.
Storm water runoff could carry pollutants to the stream, and disposing of waste from the retreatcould pose problems, said Foor-Hogue, a South Carroll High science department chairman and Chesapeake Bay Foundation member.
Foor-Hogue also is angry that the past Board of County Commissioners amended the zoning ordinance in November to allow "retreat or conference centers," under certain conditions, in the agricultural and conservation zones, which are designated primarily for farming and low-density residential use.
The change was prompted by a 1989 request from Westminster attorney James W. Davis, who represented Resurrection Farm and a Buddhist organization seeking to establish weekend retreats.
"Weperceived a need for an amendment in the ordinance," said Solveig L.Smith, county zoning administrator.
Foor-Hogue said the communitygroup is considering a drive to repeal the amendment.
"It's a case of the bureaucrats slipping it to us again," he said. "As a citizen, you don't always read the fine print. I count on our elected leaders to protect me."
Foor-Hogue said he is concerned a religious retreat could expand or be sold to another party. The amended ordinance contains too few provisions restricting the activities at a retreat, he said.
Heiderman said he realizes there is opposition to the retreat and would consider looking for another site if a permit is denied.