Calling a plan to develop single-family homes in Elkridge's Lawyers Hill historic district "irresponsible" and "destructive," members of the Howard County Historic District Commission have recommended that the county reject the project.
But the commission's recommendation, decided at a meeting Thursday, is only an advisory opinion that will not immediately derail the plan by Lawyers Hill residents Timothy and Susan Coleman to build nine homes on 5 acres surrounding their 1850s mansion known as Hursley Manor.
"They're nothing but a thorn in my side," Susan Coleman said. "The houses will be built, so why don't they try and work with us? We have the legal right to develop our land."
The Howard County Planning Board and the Department of Planning and Zoning have the final say over whether the homes can be built in one of the county's two historic districts.
Within the next few months, the planning board will hear the Colemans' proposal -- and will take the commission's recommendation under consideration, said William O'Brien, a department official and commission adviser.
The seven-member historic district panel plans to ask county officials to give it more direct authority over what can be built in historic districts.
In the meantime, the commission has picked apart the Colemans' proposal, which panel members say would desecrate Lawyers Hill -- a neighborhood of about 40 properties along portions of Lawyers Hill, Old Lawyers Hill and River roads.
The commission's major concerns center on the potential destruction of century-old trees, a proposed cul-de-sac that could dominate the narrow, scenic roads and the development's lack of parking that could force cars to park on the main road.
"This plan is ultimately destructive to the fabric of the historic district," said commission member Neil Lang.
"It's an irresponsible plan, and it would be irresponsible to approve it."
The commission, which reviews development and architectural standards in Lawyers Hill and Historic Ellicott City, encouraged the Colemans to resubmit a more sensitive plan.
"Withdraw the proposal and come back with something a little more humane to save us all some grief," urged commission member Joseph Tieperman Jr. "Don't destroy something that is absolutely gorgeous."
Susan Coleman left the meeting early and later said she and her husband will forge ahead with their proposal, despite the HDC's recommendation.
R. Jacob Hikmat, the Colemans' engineer for the project, said the recommendation is useless because the commission didn't provide alternatives.
"We've tried to accommodate them the best we could," Hikmat said. "I would like them to make suggestions on what we should do. We are more than happy to discuss any options with them."
He does find comfort in knowing the commission's recommendation does not sink the proposal.
That infuriates the commission.
"I'm uncomfortable serving in an advisory role. It's much too important," said commission member Mary Ann Gardes.
Pub Date: 5/06/96