Hampstead residents argue against approval of Westwood Park plans

January 10, 1995|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

The debate over Hampstead's adequate facilities ordinance continued last night as residents argued before the Board of Zoning Appeals that preliminary plans for the Westwood Park subdivision should not have been granted Aug. 29.

Residents, represented by attorney Thomas J. Gisriel, said Hampstead's Planning and Zoning Commission should not have approved it because area schools and roads are approaching inadequacy.

Hampstead's adequate facilities ordinance states that the commission may deny or delay a subdivision if any of the services required to support it -- such as fire protection or water -- are inadequate.

In response, Arthur Moler, commission chairman, testified that the group's ruling was accurate because the town had no control over county schools.

Commission members also took the word of Town Attorney Richard Murray that denying or delaying the subdivision could cause Hampstead to be sued.

"We would have the power to [reject a plan]," Mr. Moler said.

"But in some cases, that could be turned around by a higher court," he added. "I don't know how far we can go [with that power]."

Andrew Stone and John Maguire, the attorneys for the property owners and developer, also spent a good bit of time trying to have the case dismissed.

Both men argued that the residents were no more aggrieved than the rest of Hampstead and that the appeal had been filed too early in the process.

Board members unanimously decided to hear the arguments anyway.

"I have heard the Planning and Zoning Commission state to many of the people here showing concern tonight that when they protest at a final approval, that they should have spoken up sooner," said board member Denise Justus.

"I think the reason they are here tonight is that they are trying to speak up earlier."

In other business, board members agreed to postpone a hearing regarding North Carroll Farms Section IV until March 6 because Elwood Swam, attorney for the developer, was not able to attend last night's meeting.

The hearing had been continued from Nov. 3, when board members heard testimony similar to that offered in the Westwood Park case.

But the board decided to wait for an opinion from the attorney general's office before making a final decision.

In a letter dated Dec. 13, Jack Schwartz, the state's chief counsel for opinions and advice, said that his office would not give an opinion because the matter was being heard by an administrative body.

The letter further stated, however, that the office agreed with Mr. Murray's original opinion that Hampstead's adequate facilities ordinance could not cover schools.

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