Fallston loses fight over foster home HARFORD COUNTY

December 16, 1992|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

Fallston residents failed yesterday in a legal challenge aimed at keeping a planned $6 million foster-care complex for 60 abused and neglected juveniles out of their rural neighborhood.

After more than two hours of arguments before two dozen residents, retired Circuit Judge Broadnax Cameron Jr. ruled in favor of an agency of the United Methodist Church, the Board of Child Care.

Judge Cameron, sitting in Harford Circuit Court as a visiting judge, upheld an April 1992 Harford County Board of Appeals ruling allowing the church agency a special exception to build the complex in an agriculturally zoned district.

The zoning exception allows the construction of a 10-building complex on 26 acres at Harford and Reckord roads. The complex is to house children ages 2 to 17 referred by social service agencies throughout Maryland.

Opponents, who have fought the proposed complex for two years, vowed to appeal to Maryland's second-highest court, the Court of Special Appeals.

"We're definitely going to Annapolis now," said an angry Sal Glorioso, president of the Fallston Meadows Homeowners Association.

With Harford County People's Counsel Robert F. Kahoe pleading their case, members of the association argued that the size of the foster-care complex was inappropriate in an area lacking public utilities. The complex, they said, would strain neighboring wells and septic systems.

In addition, Mr. Kahoe argued, the Board of Child Care had changed its plans for the home after the initial approval by a hearing examiner.

The agency sold the idea for the home as a refuge for children under age 12 in arguments before a hearing examiner last fall, said Mr. Kahoe, but later changed its request before the Board of Appeals and sought a home for teen-agers as well.

The Harford County Council, sitting as the Board of Appeals in April, changed the conditions of the hearing examiner's recommendation for a zoning exception to allow the Board of Child Care to accept 30 teen-agers.

Judge Cameron ruled yesterday that the appeals board had the right to change the conditions of the approval.

"The big issue in this case is the possible drawdown on the wells of neighboring properties," he said, noting that the Board of Child Care's experts on water supply had satisfied the hearing examiner and the Board of Appeals.

"The court can't take exception and rule against the Board of Appeals as long as there is substantial evidence" to support its decision, said Judge Cameron.

The Board of Child Care wants to build a complex of five "cottages" housing 12 children each and five other buildings.

All the residents would be victims of physical or emotional abuse or neglect -- children who had been removed from their homes by authorities because they were considered in danger.

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