Zoning ruling favors disputed project

January 08, 1995|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Developers of a controversial 114-unit townhouse project on the Broadneck Peninsula will seek county approval to start construction in two months, after winning their case Friday at the Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals.

The ruling protects the developers, who have been through lengthy zoning hearings and an unsuccessful court battle, from having to start anew in planning the 31-acre Woods Landing II.

It allows them to keep a zoning exception for the townhouse complex on the Little Magothy River near Cape St. Claire and means they will not have to seek waivers from the county's adequate-facilities law for schools and roads on the crowded peninsula.

"When you build your first section, it vests your second," said Edward St. John, a partner in Woods Landing Joint Venture. "We were ready to submit the [phase two] plans when this came up."

He said the company hopes to have the second section built in two to three years.

The ruling is the second recent setback for residents of the Broadneck Peninsula, who are saddled with schools at or over capacity and roads snarled with traffic.

A request to the county to stop issuing waivers for new construction until a committee studying the issue presents its findings was rejected by County Executive John G. Gary.

The ruling disappointed opponents of the proposed waterfront development, who had spent $70,000 on challenges and ran out of money by the time the Board of Appeals heard the case in November.

The county took the challenge to the appeals board.

"What the appeals board is saying is their special exceptions never expire," said Betsy Kulle, a board member of the Woods Landing Community Association, the 99-unit first phase of the development, which was started 14 years ago. "It's the spirit of the thing that bothers me."

Because her group was not part of the Board of Appeals case, it cannot mount a Circuit Court challenge to the ruling.

Opponents will shift their focus and become a watchdog group monitoring building and grading permits and making sure the work complies with the law, she said.

HTC "We will be watching. We will review those plans, yes. We will be watching them build," she said.

Robert M. Pollock, senior assistant county attorney, said he had not seen the ruling and would not comment on it.

Woods Landing had been planned for nearly 20 years.

The first section was completed, but county officials delayed the second section because of a sewer moratorium imposed on the Broadneck Peninsula. That ended in December 1989.

Developers said the county led them to believe that they did not have to continue to renew their exception because they had built the first section.

Meanwhile, the state adopted waterfront protection laws.

The County Council exempted Woods Landing II from its critical-area enforcement program in 1988.

The Board of Appeals said in February 1993 that it was powerless to stop the development, but Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth ruled a year later that the project violated the intent of the critical-area laws.

He said that without meeting the waterfront protection requirement, the plans would be null and void.

After the court decision, county lawyers said the developers had to start over.

At the November hearing, the developers said they would have appealed Judge Rushworth's rulings had they known the alternative was to start from scratch.

The project originally was planned as 165 townhouses, but Mr. St. John said compliance with critical-area laws forced it down to 114. He said he did not anticipate further reductions, but Ms. Kulle said she thought the development would have to contain fewer homes to meet various requirements.

County planners said they could not comment.

Five board members voted in the developer's favor, one member dissented, and one did not participate in the case.

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