Developer loses bid to build two homes on one lot

October 23, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

The Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals has denied a developer permission to build a waterfront house in Deale Beach, ruling the would-be builder partly created his own woes by planning two houses on a lot that had held one.

"It is a very big victory," said Linda Abbott, president of the Deale Beach Citizens Association. "The community went up against this to set a precedent. We don't want this going on."

The community is wedged between Carrs Creek and the Chesapeake Bay. Many of the 110 homes are on larger grounds than the 1935 subdivision required, Mrs. Abbott said.

A ruling in the developer's favor would have sent a signal that property owners could demolish old houses and build two or more on the same lot, Mrs. Abbott said.

Dennis Williams and his company, Annapolis Specialty Homes, had sought to build a 20-foot by 32-foot house in a lot along Carrs Creek. Though legally recorded in 1935, the lot lies entirely within the 100-foot shoreline protection buffer, according to county officials.

Mr. Williams declined to comment on the case. His attorney, Benjamin Michaelson Jr., said, "I don't want to say anything other than we appealed to Circuit Court." The appeal was filed Thursday.

Mrs. Abbott said the community, which has held a yard sale and other fund-raisers to pay its legal bills, will not abandon the fight.

When Mr. Williams bought the land, a house, garage and gazebo were on what was platted in 1935 as two building lots.

He tore down the outbuildings, rebuilt the house on one lot, then sought a variance for the remaining land. He claimed hardship and argued that he was entitled to relief as owner of a homesite platted decades before shoreline protection laws.

"I give the guy a lot of credit for imagination," said Thomas J. Wohlgemuth, attorney for the opponents.

The Board of Appeals wrote that the circumstances arose from Mr. Williams' actions.

The board also noted that he did not submit a planting plan as required. The decision was 5-1, with one member abstaining.

In April, the Critical Area Commission favored granting the variance, but only after being told that Mr. Williams had sold the new house, thus eliminating the opportunity to address the two homesites together. County planners weighed in on the developer's side.

The board's decision overturns November's ruling by Administrative Hearing Officer Robert C. Wilcox, who had decided to give Mr. Williams the variance. He said that pursuant to a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court case, the county would have to compensate Mr. Williams if it deprived him of the use of his land.

"The critical area law in this has the effect of converting the applicant's building lot into a scenic easement for the benefit of local residents as well as the general public," Mr. Wilcox wrote.

The Board of Appeals made a similar ruling several weeks ago, when it ruled that F. Nicholas Codd, a Severna Park optician, could not build a house over a small marsh that was platted as a legally build- able plot.

Whether either case would constitute a "taking" under the 1992 high court ruling is disputed.

Undisputed is that officials do not want to set a precedent of buying lots that were platted for homes but do not conform to newer environmental laws.

Hundreds of these lots are along the bay.

"You've got to avoid takings," said retiring state Sen. Gerald R. Winegrad of Annapolis, who fears such action would give property owners ammunition to erode shoreline protection laws.

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