SYKESVILLE -- The Town Council deferred action Monday on the proposed historic district ordinance after an amendment failed that would have allowed appeals directly to the Circuit Court rather than the town's Zoning Board of Appeals.
The original proposal calls for a first appeal to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals, with subsequent appeals to Circuit Court.
After the six-member council split, 3-3, on the amendment to bypass the Board of Zoning Appeals, Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. deferred action on the ordinance until the Oct. 28 meeting.
FOR THE RECORD - The photograph accompanying the Sykesville Historic Districtstory on page 6 of Wednesday's issue was of Councilman Walter White, not Councilman Wiley Purkey.
At its Oct. 7 meeting, the town Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that appeals go to Circuit Court, saying the appeals board did not have the expertise required to render a decision on historic matters.
"What makes the Circuit Court have the expertise to make decisions and our board of appeals not have (it)?" Councilman Wiley Purkey asked Monday.
"What wesaid was that the Circuit Court would rule on the law, rather than aesthetic decisions," replied Councilman Jonathan Herman, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Herman also noted that if appeals started with the town, homeowners would be more likely to appeal decisions and the Historic Preservation Commission would get caught in a spiral of ongoing appeals.
"If you have (Board of) Zoning Appeals, you have more likelihood of an owner making an appeal, whereas if the case would have to go to the Circuit Court, they'd be less likely to appeal," Herman said.
Town Attorney Cynthia K. Hitt told thecouncil that according to state law, after which the town ordinance is patterned, either method is permissible.
"Testimony would have to come from both sides at a hearing and decisions made on fact, not fiction," Hitt said.
"The Circuit Court understands what they haveto look for, and it is important for the Historic Commission to explain in detail how it arrived at its decision," added Dianne Wiebe, executive director of the Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions.
Councilmen William R. Hall, Walter R. White and Purkey voted against the Circuit Court appeal. Councilmen Kenneth W. Clark, Eugene Johnson and Herman voted for the amendment.
White said he preferred that appeals go to the Board of Zoning Appeals and that the decisions be made by townspeople.
No opposition was expressed to the ordinance by the seven residents who attended the public hearing.
The council discussed and passed several other recommendations, including:
* Deleting exterior color as one of the items to be decided upon by the Historic Commission as part of a change to a structure.After some discussion, it was decided that it would be too difficultto establish a palette of colors to be used and that doing so would be limiting to the homeowner.
"Color is a very personal thing," Purkey noted.
Hitt said that the state statute does not include colors among the items the Maryland Historic Trust rules upon.
* Leaving in the 45-day limit for decisions to be made by the Historic Commission, rather than extending it to 60 or 90 days.
"The state statute allows for the 45-day period," Hitt said. "You can restrict the time allowed to less than 45 days, but you can't expand it."
* Defining the word "act" as a decision to either pass, reject or modify a historic district application.
* Passing a historic district map that includes the old schoolhouse for blacks and five other homes on Schoolhouse Road.
A motion by Clark to include an alphabetized key to the map denoting the historic significance of each building in the district was deferred until the next council meeting.
The keyed map was suggested when the Maryland Historical Trust was establishing the existence of a historic district for National Historic Register purposes, Town Manager James L. Schumacher said.