County blocks 120-slip marina at Stony Creek Zoning was changed after man got permits

October 30, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

The county has blocked construction of a 120-slip marina on Stony Creek that has already received state and federal permits.

County officials say the 3-acre site, where Sterling Homes Inc hopes to build a marina for residents in the Stoney Beach community, does not have the zoning needed for a commercial facility.

The developer disagrees. Sterling Leppo, owner of Sterlin Homes, said the County Council rezoned the property from commercial to residential use after he purchased it and had begun construction.

Mr. Leppo argues that although construction of the marina ha not begun when the county changed the zoning, it should have been "grandfathered" along with the rest of his development.

He has asked the county Board of Appeals to issue permits t build a bathhouse and parking lot -- both legally required in commercial marinas. The board will hear testimony at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

Mr. Leppo, who first sought county building permits in 1989, ha received permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Natural Resources and the state Board of Public Works to build an entrance road over a tidal wetland and install bulkheads along the creek banks.

County officials say Mr. Leppo did not have any of those permit or even a legally subdivided lot when the property was rezoned in the summer of 1989.

They say he sought a building permit for the bathhouse an parking lot only after it became apparent the property would be rezoned.

"Basically, the guy dropped the ball. He sat on it [the marin plans] too long and now he's coming to the county to save him," said Assistant County Attorney Robert Pollock.

Sterling Homes purchased 60 acres along the Patapsco River sandwiched between Stony and Cox creeks, in 1984.

The county approved its plans to build 450 town homes on 57 of those acres in 1985 with the understanding that plans for a marina would be submitted later, said Dwight Flowers of the county Office of Planning and Zoning.

Over the next two years, the project was embroiled in a lega battle over the widening of Hilltop Road, a condition of the subdivision's approval.

The county refused to sign an agreement allowing the develope to widen Hilltop Road, arguing that it was a private, not public, road.

Orchard Beach residents, who faced the loss of up to 10 feet of their yards, said they owned the road.

A Circuit Court judge ruled in January 1987 that the county owns the right of way, which allowed construction to begin.

In 1988, Orchard Beach residents petitioned the county to alter the zoning of the property, drastically reducing the number of houses that could be built and eliminating the commercial marina. The County Council adopted the changes a year later.

That led to the disagreement now before the Appeals Board. County officials ruled that the developer is exempt from the zoning change on the 57-acre town house community because construction had begun. The marina, which had not yet been approved, was not "grandfathered."

The Orchard Beach Improvement Association is opposed to the commercial marina.

President Bob Hoffman said residents fear increased traffic from boat owners towing their vessels to and from the facility.

Mark Padeletti, project manager for Sterling Homes, said concerns over traffic are needless. Marketing surveys show Stoney Beach residents will rent most of the slips. Additionally, he said, the facility would not have a boat ramp or dry storage.

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