Developer's subdivision stuck between county agencies Appeals board returns case to planning commission

February 11, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The county Board of Zoning Appeals has bounced a controversial townhouse development in Eldersburg back to the planning commission, which used a technicality to deny approval for the project in the fall.

Security Development Corp. is seeking to complete its 20-year-old Carrolltowne subdivision with 254 rental townhouses on 20 acres at Ridge Road and Kali Drive. But the Howard County building company is caught between county agencies.

In October, the county Planning and Zoning Commission said Security had not listed the number of buildable lots on its site plan -- a missed step in the review process -- and the commission would not approve the final phase of Carrolltowne.

The site plan identifies the 20 acres as "a non-buildable parcel."

The zoning board heard an appeal of the planning commission's decision last week and gave its opinion Friday.

"It seems we are going in circles," said Karl V. Reichlin, a zoning appeals board member. "The planning commission has a right to deny or affirm any plans. The problem is [that] the reason for their denial could have been clearer."

The developer, which is seeking site plan approval only, said the site plan had listed a zero under buildable lots because no single-family dwellings were planned, just multifamily dwellings.

Usually, if single-family dwellings were planned, a number of buildable lots would be listed for each home. But because multifamily dwellings are to be built on the parcel, the site plan did not list them individually.

The zoning board upheld Security's appeal and remanded the issue to the planning commission. The developer must now provide an amended site plan.

Area residents have followed the project doggedly and have voiced opposition to adding 254 homes at an already dangerous intersection and in an area beset with crowded schools.

"The decision is better than an approval," said Dan Hughes, founder of Better Solutions for South Carroll, a community group opposed to uncontrolled growth. "Now we can go back and discuss the real issues."

Carrolltowne Elementary School is at 133 percent capacity, and is using 10 portable classrooms for many of its students.

At a Jan. 4 meeting with 200 residents at the school, the County Commissioners unanimously enacted an ordinance that gives the planning commission authority to deny development in areas with inadequate facilities.

When Security goes before the planning commission again, it will have to prove existing services can support 254 more homes.

"There is no contest, if a decision is based on adequate facilities," said Carolyn Fairbank, a member of Better Solutions. "They just aren't there."

But William B. Dulany, attorney for Security, said the developer could meet the adequate facilities rules, based on proposed school projects. Before the development is completed, the county will build another elementary school and plans to open Oklahoma Road Middle School in September.

Security is responding to a need for low- and middle-income housing in Carroll County, Mr. Dulany said.

"The commissioners have said that the county needs affordable housing," he said. "This will be an affordable, really nice facility."

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