Lawyers Hill plan draws fire Couple seeking to develop 9 homes on their property

Neighbors fear 'slum'

Historic panel plans to offer opinion in May

April 05, 1996|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Accustomed to advising on such mundane matters as window placement and the color of awnings, the Howard County Historic District Commission found itself making history of its own last night.

For the first time since the Elkridge's Lawyers Hill community joined downtown Ellicott City as an official historic district in 1994, the commission is facing a development issue.

Although development proposals seem to be an everyday occurrence in the county, residents of Lawyers Hill -- a quaint neighborhood of about 40 properties along portions of Lawyers Hill, Old Lawyers Hill and River roads -- came out in force to oppose a local couple's planned development.

"They are trying to create a slum of the worst sort in the middle of a historic district," resident Gary Tichnor said of the couple's proposal.

Timothy and Susan Coleman, Lawyers Hill residents of four years, presented the seven-member commission -- which governs development and architectural standards in the county's historic districts -- with their plans to develop nine single- family homes on 5 acres surrounding their 1850s mansion home known as the Hursley Manor.

About 60 of the Colemans' neighbors, wearing blue ribbons to express their outrage at a perceived encroachment on their exclusive community, urged the commission to reject the plan.

Protection sought

"This isn't something we want to fight because we're in a fighting mood," said Gloria Berthold, a Lawyers Hill resident of 21 years. "We're here to protect our historic district."

The residents' have urged that the commission reject the plan outright, but the panel's role is limited to reviewing the proposal and offering its recommendations to the county Planning and Zoning Department, said William O'Brien, a department official and adviser to the commission.

The Planning Board may approve or deny the proposal after considering the commission's recommendations, Mr. O'Brien told opponents.

Herbert Johl, the commission's chairman, said the panel will review the proposal and draft its recommendations at its May meeting.

The proposal calls for the construction of nine single-family detached homes, a public street cul-de-sac, a noise barrier 9 to 16 feet high and a sewage pumping station.

Mrs. Coleman said the motive behind the proposal to sell or rent the nine homes is to recoup some of the cost of living in one of the district's more stately homes.

"We put all the money we have in the world in our house. Our electric bill alone is $500 a month," she said. "We have two children we want to send to college. We need to recoup some of the costs of living here."

'A precedent'

The only other major construction that has occurred in the historic district -- which is on a wooded hill overlooking the Patapsco River -- has been the addition to homes and general maintenance, residents said. A request to allow such a dense development project is "out of character" for the community, they said.

"This is going to set a precedent for the future," said Larrabee Strow, a Lawyers Hill resident of 18 years and an opponent of the development proposal. "This is new ground for everybody."

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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