Developer challenges zoning change

February 18, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

A bank holding company is asking county planning and zoning authorities for a fivefold increase in the number of homes it could develop on a secluded 14-acre lot on Columbia's southern edge, claiming the Zoning Board made an error in rezoning the property last year.

David A. Carney, a Columbia attorney representing the ownertold the county Planning Board yesterday that the property probably would be developed with 88 apartment condominiums or townhouses selling for $120,000 to $180,000.

The site, on both sides of Old Columbia Road just north of the Middle Patuxent River, was zoned office/research until last year, when the Zoning Board voted 3-2 to convert 10 acres of it to "environmental residential," which would allow a maximum of 16 units, because of its steep, wooded slopes and the streams running through it.

"If the Zoning Board was trying to protect the environmentally sensitive piece [of property], they missed it," said Melanie Moser, a land planner hired by the property owner.

The zoning change will cost the owner, Chesapeake Holdings -- Clark's Crossing Ltd., a holding company of First National Bank of Maryland -- about 25 percent of the property's value, Mr. Carney said.

Planning Board members noted that the issue before them was whether the Zoning Board erred in its decision, not the merits of the ruling. The legal standard for individual rezonings is that a property's zoning was a mistake or that the character of the neighborhood has changed since the last comprehensive rezoning.

Last year's rezoning was done during the eastern comprehensive rezoning process, while half of the county's zoning was being reviewed. County Council members, meeting as the Zoning Board, took two votes on the property, both times rejecting the Department of Planning and Zoning's request for 15-units-per-acre apartment zoning.

The other parcel, four acres between U.S. 29 and Old Columbia Road, was not changed in the comprehensive rezoning.

Mr. Carney argued yesterday that Zoning Board members were mistaken in believing that the environmental zoning would be better for the site. Detached homes on the site would require public roads, which would necessitate grading that would damage the area's environmental features, he said.

The eight-homes-per acre zoning now requested, however, would allow a condominium development with a private road, he said, which would mean narrower, steeper roads and less damage from grading and construction to manage storm water.

Only one nearby property owner testified yesterday about the rezoning petition.

Roy K. Klein Jr. told the Planning Board that condominiums were not compatible with the neighborhood's single-family, detached houses, which he said already suffer from their proximity to U.S. 29, a self-service storage facility and the Rivers Corporate Park.

"I have no problem with housing analogous to what we have," Mr. Klein said. "We don't need high-density housing in our neighborhood."

Mr. Klein said he feared that the requested zoning would bring rental apartments and crime to the neighborhood.

Planning Board members were unable to make a recommendation on the rezoning request, voting 2-2. The Zoning Board will schedule its own hearing before deciding whether to overturn its previous ruling.

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