Zoning board's mistaken generosity

August 01, 1994

If Michael Reeves, an Eldersburg developer, has any sense of propriety, he should send Carroll's Board of Zoning Appeals a card acknowledging the gift it gave him last Thursday. While he is at it, Mr. Reeves should also send a thank you note to the county taxpayers who will pay to correct the problems the zoning board created.

Rather than make Mr. Reeves pay for road improvements to Homedale Road that every other developer in the county would have to make, the good members of the zoning board are allowing him to develop 16 acres off Klees Mill Road in Sykesville that will be served by a one-lane, gravel road. Mr. Reeves bases his request on a 40-year-old subdivision approval that predates the county's zoning ordinance.

Although four homeowners who live on Homedale Road opposed Mr. Reeves permits, they are not opposed to developing the remaining 12 lots in the subdivision. They just want Mr. Reeves to build a road that conforms to the current requirements for width, construction and storm drains.

Under county law, these substandard subdivision roads that were approved years ago can be built as long as they meet basic standards for health and safety. Mr. Reeves' road doesn't meet those standards. Homedale's entrance on to Klees Mill Road is dangerous because the sight lines are very short. While he has agreed to widen the entrance from 12 to 22 feet, the curve of Klees Mill Road still makes it a very dangerous intersection.

Mr. Reeves claims that since a couple of fire trucks were able to navigate around the road, it conforms with the county's public safety standards. The zoning board should not have just taken his word, but should have asked the experts at emergency services whether an ambulance or fire truck could travel on Homedale Road in rainy or snowy conditions. Who will be responsible when an emergency vehicle is mired in a ditch trying to reach someone on Homedale Road suffering from a medical emergency?

The county should immediately impose a sunset provision on all subdivision plans to prevent a repetition of this sorry spectacle. Subdivision plans should not have an indefinite life. Requiring developers to adhere to today's standards is not asking too much. It is the right thing to do. The zoning board's decision was wrong.

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