Villa Julie gains approval to grow, within limits

July 15, 1992|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

Villa Julie College has won approval for two new buildings that would double its size -- in a zoning opinion that also limits student enrollment.

Opponents and supporters of the expansion both appear to have won and lost in the opinion by Baltimore County Zoning Commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt, who granted the special exception the college needs to build on agriculturally zoned land.

Attorneys for both sides said yesterday they are considering whether to take the decision to the county Board of Appeals, which reviews administrative decisions.

The four-year commuter college, in the 1500 block of Greenspring Valley Road in Stevenson, plans to erect two combination office-classroom buildings behind its existing facilities, said Virginia Tanner, director of public relations for the school. Also planned in the 98,300-square-foot project are a small addition to one building, increased parking and a new wastewater treatment plant to replace a failing septic system, although the requested capacity of the plant was reduced.

In his 31-page opinion released this week, Mr. Schmidt wrote that the college's 60 acres lie "on the floor of the Green Spring Valley, an agricultural prize of Baltimore County." But he said the college met its burden of proving that its plans would not harm surrounding farmland.

"The demands on any small college are enormous," he wrote. "It must grow to survive. . . . The question is presented: How much growth should be permitted?"

The decision limited the student body to 2,500, with annual growth restricted to 5 percent -- lower than the 8 percent average growth during the past 10 years, Ms. Tanner said. Villa Julie now has more than 1,700 students. Neither Ms. Tanner nor Benjamin Bronstein, the college's attorney, could say yesterday whether Villa Julie would appeal that part of the ruling.

Also reviewing the opinion is J. Carroll Holzer, attorney for the Valleys Planning Council Inc. and some area homeowners, who opposed the zoning exception. They said the expansion would increase traffic on Greenspring Valley Road.

"We were opposed to the special exception, but we recognized that the school had existed for years," Mr. Holzer said. "Our primary concern was unrestricted and unfettered growth. And we sort of won that point: restrictions on the number of students, the gallons per day, (at the treatment plant) which we also argued for.

"But then he granted the special exception, so I don't know whether we're going to appeal or not. It's good for us that he recognized our concerns."

The four-year college, founded in 1947 as a one-year secretarial school, also has a petition in the county's quadrennial rezoning process to permanently change its zoning and eliminate the need for special exceptions. The county planning board voted against the requested change, and the petition now moves with hundreds of others to the County Council, which must vote on them by Oct. 16.

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