County denies rezoning bid for plant nursery

December 16, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

The county's administrative hearing officer rejected yesterday a request to allow a plant nursery on 13 acres at Ritchie Highway and Joyce Lane zoned for town houses.

The owners of the property couldn't prove that the County Council made a mistake when it zoned the land to allow five houses to the acre in 1989, said Robert C. Wilcox, the hearing officer. Neither could they prove that the neighborhood had changed significantly since then.

Either condition must be proved before the rezoning can take place. The decision puts on hold an Arnold man's plans for a nursery farm on the site.

Daniel J. Werner, an engineer with Anarex Inc., the property's owner, said his company has a contract to sell the property to Walter Palmer, a builder who lives nearby and wants to start a nursery there. He said the company will challenge the decision before the county Board of Appeals.

Residents from neighboring communities, including Terrace Gardens and Morgan's Purchase, testified in favor of the rezoning during a hearing last week.

Mr. Wilcox agreed in a five-page opinion that a nursery would be less disruptive to the environment and impose fewer demands on county facilities, such as sewer, schools and roads.

However, there is no guarantee the property would be used as a nursery after it was rezoned, he added.

"The applicant argues that the proposed nursery farm would be a less intense use and in many respects would complement the surrounding residential uses," Mr. Wilcox wrote. "I agree. Personal land use preference, however, is not the test."

Mr. Wilcox noted that zoning permits, known as special exceptions, were issued a decade ago to allow Anarex to develop 64 town houses on the land.

Since those special exceptions were issued, Mr. Werner said, environmental laws have become more stringent, limiting what can be built on property that includes wetlands.

Mr. Werner also said it will be harder to extend water and sewer service to the property than the company originally expected.

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