Plans to expand subdivision pit homeowners against developer

July 26, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

A subdivision that predates county zoning regulations has current homeowners and a developer embroiled in controversy.

Plans to build a dozen new houses along Homedale Road, a 12-foot-wide gravel road that intersects Klee Mill Road in Sykesville, have led to lawsuits and contention.

"We are just a subdivision in peculiar circumstances," said Thomas L. Waller, the newest of the four residents of Homedale Road.

"The development dates to 1957 and predates county zoning ordinances. By today's standards, it could not be a subdivision."

Neil Ridgely, program manager for the county division of landscape and forest conservation, called the situation "a nightmare."

"Everybody knows this [the road] is an unsafe condition," he said. "It's a tragedy and does not meet today's requirements."

The four homeowners are not averse to developing the 16 remaining acres in the subdivision, but they are asking the developer to widen and improve the only access road.

The residents are appealing an arrangement agreed to last month by the developer and several county officials that "recognizes pre-existing conditions and allows development as substandard lots if they can meet basic tests for safety and health."

Lawrence E. Krynski said that adding more than 20 vehicles to a substandard road, on which he has lived for six years, would create hazardous conditions. He is willing to relinquish the seclusion of his surroundings, he said, but not to invite danger.

"I am not trying to impede development, but to assure safety," he said.

Homedale, surrounded by the tranquillity of Morgan Run Park and neighboring farms, would be a morass of road problems with further development, he said.

"Traffic at 8 a.m. is going to be really difficult," Mr. Waller said.

The developer, Michael Reeves of Eldersburg, has said he will make the improvements the county requires. Those requirements, based on subdivision plats approved nearly 40 years ago, are few.

"Anybody can say a road is unsafe, but who makes that determination?" Mr. Reeves asked. "We have had fire companies there, and they have had no problems with equipment."

Mr. Reeves said he is considering whether to have Homedale made a county road -- 18 feet wide with 5-foot-wide shoulders.

Owners of a majority of properties along the road would have to agree to such a proposal, and the county would assess each homeowner a portion of the cost. Since Mr. Reeves owns a majority of the lots, he alone could request and receive county approval for the road construction.

The developer said that in accordance with his agreement with county officials, he will widen the entrance to Homedale from 12 to 22 feet to improve sight distance. Klee Mill makes a wide curve just south of Homedale.

In response to the residents' appeal, which goes before the Board of Zoning Appeals at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Mr. Reeves has filed suit against them on grounds that they have threatened his livelihood.

His civil suit, filed July 11 in the Circuit Court for Carroll County, states the homeowners' appeal "attempts wrongfully to delay building" in the subdivision and to "force expenses" for road construction onto the developer.

At one point, contractors for Mr. Reeves dug a trench across the road -- the residents' deeded right of way -- and parked a tractor, impeding the residents' access to Klee Mill Road for seven days.

"We were forced to use the part of the road in the poorest condition to get out," Mr. Waller said.

Mr. Reeves said the trench was needed for the installation of a storm water pipe required by the county.

He said he plans to develop 12 lots in the subdivision and to extend Homedale to all of the homes. Some stretches of the road would be 12 feet wide; the portion that leads out to Klee Mill would be 16 feet wide. All of the residents would have to use Homedale to reach Klee Mill Road.

The existing 1,000-foot-long road, which the residents call a driveway and on which they replace the gravel yearly, suits four homeowners well but would be completely inadequate for many more, Mr. Waller said. The residents have filed a countersuit "to have the developer put in a reasonable road," he said.

"From day one, I have done nothing but try to come to a mutual conclusion with the developer," Mr. Krynski said. "If we are going to be a larger subdivision, we want to have a good road."

The residents' suit states that when they acquired their properties, the seller assured them that further development would coincide with a road built to meet county standards. The suit says their properties "would be rendered unsafe and hazardous by increased traffic."

"I have the same rights to use the road as these residents," Mr. Reeves said. "We can't take half the cars off of Liberty Road because it is difficult for us to get around."

When Mr. Waller bought his house last year, he said, the sales agent showed him a plat detailing the surrounding land.

"I knew it would be developed but was assured it would be developed properly," said Mr. Waller.

After his meeting with county officials last month, Mr. Reeves agreed to improvements including widening the entrance at Klee Mill to 22 feet and the main section of the road to 16 feet.

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