Residents win Woodholme Green zoning review

October 29, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

It's been a long time coming, but Alison Tucker of Pikesville has finally won her battle with developers over a nearby housing development called Woodholme Green.

For her and the Baltimore County People's Counsel lawyers who argued the case before the Maryland Court of Appeals last year, the lessons of the high court's 16-page opinion this week are clear: A deal is a deal; and, the county Board of Appeals may accept new testimony in reviewing development decisions and is not limited to testimony from earlier administrative hearings.

According to county attorneys and Mrs. Tucker, both of those points will be important in other cases of disputed developments.

Benjamin Bronstein, the attorney for John W. Schilling Jr., the original developer, disagreed with that contention. He said the decision by Maryland's highest court will have a very limited effect on Woodholme Green and will not set a precedent for other cases.

The dispute began in the late 1980s, when Mr. Schilling planned to build town houses on Woodholme Avenue, just inside the Beltway and west of Reisterstown Road. He had agreed to limit his development to 133 units, although zoning allowed for 194 units.

After getting neighborhood support, Mr. Schilling bought a smaller, adjoining parcel and tried to transfer zoning density so he could build 48 more units.

The residents, led by Mrs. Tucker, were outraged. The county Board of Appeals ruled in their favor, but the decision was reversed by the Circuit Court. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the lower court's decision.

Worse, from the residents' standpoint, the Circuit Court said the board could not hear new testimony in such cases and was limited to the record created at earlier county approval hearings.

The Court of Appeals' decision says the appeals board was correct. Peter Max Zimmerman, deputy county People's Counsel, said the decision could be important in other disputed cases.

"It's a real plus for citizen participation," he said, because it gives the Board of Appeals greater latitude in considering resident protests.

Mrs. Tucker said no homes have been built on the disputed second parcel of land. The ruling, which would limit that plot to a maximum of 39 units, could mean building there would not be profitable, thereby killing any project. Mr. Bronstein disagreed that the ruling would have that effect.

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