Neighbors fight planning OK of convenience store in Lisbon Crime, loitering feared

proposed church move to Highland also contested

June 07, 1996|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

A High's convenience store and gas station proposed for Lisbon won the endorsement of the Howard County Planning Board yesterday -- but neighborhood opponents promised to bring reinforcements when the fight goes to the county Board of Appeals later this month.

"I have 300 signatures on my petition, and I have three more weeks to gather them," said Cynthia Brennan of nearby Woodbine after the meeting where residents warned that the project would bring loitering teen-agers, crime, drugs, alcohol and dangerous traffic to their community.

In other business, the Baltimore Sung Rak Korean Baptist Church won the Planning Board's recommendation for a planned church in Highland in a 3-2 vote. That proposal goes to the Board of Appeals on June 18.

High's of Baltimore plans its new store at Lisbon Center, a shopping center near Old Frederick and Woodbine roads. The center already includes a grocery store, liquor store, Pizza Hut, McDonald's and other businesses.

But Brennan and other neighbors argued that High's would disrupt their neighborhood and threaten business at two nearby gas stations.

"It's not going to be a place where we feel comfortable with our kids going and getting an ice cream and going back to the pool," said Jim Narron, a neighbor.

High's lawyer David Carney, of Columbia, said the chain is a family business that rarely has trouble with loitering teen-agers outside of Baltimore and its suburbs.

Board Chairman Theodore Mariani questioned the neighbors' objections. "Why is a High's store different from a Pizza Hut or a McDonald's?" he asked.

The project passed the Planning Board unanimously, though the final decision won't be made until the Board of Appeals hearing June 25.

The vote was more narrow on the Baltimore Sung Rak Korean Baptist Church, which also gained the Planning Board's recommendation at yesterday's meeting.

The congregation, now sharing quarters with an Ellicott City church, wants to move to a 15-acre farm on Brown's Bridge Road in Highland. In the near future, it hopes to use two existing buildings at the Highland site. Later, it hopes to build a larger church.

It needs a special exception from zoning rules to allow religious activity on the property.

Neighbors, represented by Columbia attorney Thomas M. Meachum, complained that using the two existing buildings -- near the property's northwestern corner -- would disturb nearby homes.

Because of the complaints, the congregation has agreed to use buildings farther from the edge of the lot. It also intends to plant trees as buffers and the congregation scaled back its estimates about the number of worshipers who would attend services.

Meachum asked the Planning Board to require the congregation to build its new church in the next two years or so.

But church members said they cannot build yet. They want to use the two existing buildings as homes for the pastor, a deacon and their families. They hope to have services with up to 40 people Wednesday evenings and Sundays.

"We have no strength to have a full, nice church," said Elaine Chong, a deacon, "so we just start with this one."

Board members Joan Lancos and Cathy Hartman agreed with the neighbors that the church would be disruptive, particularly if it expanded after moving. "It's a foot in the door," Lancos said.

"A foot in the door for what?" replied Mariani, the board chairman. "Even if it's the foot in the door to a 300-person church, it's not wrong. You have to accept that the people who come here as petitioners are people of goodwill. They are not devious people."

The planning board voted to recommend allowing the church on the property as long as services are limited to 50 people and are held in the main building.

The Planning Board also approved a two-story office building in Rivers Corporate Park on Route 32 and Old Columbia Road. The board approved the building unanimously after little discussion.

Pub Date: 6/07/96

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