A descendant of one of Brooklyn Park's founding fathers lost an appeal to rezone the last 10 acres of her ancestor's land for a large town house development.
Georgia Clift, a fourth-generation descendantof Henry Ballman, wanted to sell her family's property to a developer planning 94 homes, including 86 town houses. But the county's zoning hearing officer denied a request to change the lot's zoning designation of R-5, which permits five houses per acre, to R-10, which wouldallow up to 10 units per acre.
In an opinion issued Friday, Zoning Officer Roger C. Wilcox said he found no blatant mistake in the original zoning or other justification for the request.
"It may well be, as the applicants suggest, that it would be more logical to zone the property to a more intense residential use," he wrote. "This, however, is not the test. The merefact that hindsight might show that another zoning line . . would have been more desirable or even logical does not a zoning error make."
Two weeks ago, Clift returned from her home in New Hampshire to face her angry former neighbors, who live on a street named after her ancestor.
During a four-and-half-hour hearing, bus loads of residents from the Ballman Avenue area jeered her rezoning request and charged that Clift was selling out her heritage.
Speaker after speakerargued that Clift wanted to maximize her profits and could just as easily build single-family houses or the 55 town homes allowed under the current zoning.
Clift's attorney, Thomas A. Pavlinic, said developing under the current zoning was economically impossible. Pavlinic, who planned to buy and develop the property, contended that infrastructure costs would drive the prices of single homes out of the reachof most Brooklyn Park buyers.
Clift supported him, saying she tried unsuccessfully to sell the site for years. Every developer was scared off by the R-5 zoning, she said.
She and Pavlinic argued that R-10 zoning fit in with the neighborhood. They pointed out that several adjoining streets are lined with row homes .
But the neighbors who live in well-kept single houses on Ballman Avenue were frightenedby the proposal. They worried about drainage problems on the street and an increased risk of accidents from cars exiting the town-house community.
Pavlinic tried to reassure them by showing plans for only eight houses per acre instead of the 10 allowed and giving Wilcox plans for road and drainage improvements. But the zoning officer said the concerns about traffic congestion, overcrowded schools and publicsafety were beside the point.
"In Maryland, it is presumed that the original zoning was well-planned and designated to be permanent," Wilcox wrote.
He said that before zoning codes can be amended, it must first be established that some mistake was made in the original zoning.
Wilcox said he could find no mistake for the County Council's decision to designate the property R-5 during the last comprehensive rezoning in 1989.
Residents and community leaders were pleasedby his ruling. State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno and Delegate Joan Cadden,Democrats from Brooklyn Park who testified against the rezoning, said the community would mobilize again if Pavlinic appeals the decision.
"I'm absolutely thrilled," Cadden said Friday. "I didn't think that Mr. Pavlinic presented a case that would change the judge's mind.If he appeals this higher up, we will continue to fight it."
Cadden also said she hopes the county scrapes together some money to restore a damaged manor house on the property. The house, built by Henry Ballman in 1851, was designated a historic site by the county severalyears ago.