Appeals court deals setback to Severn River landowner Decisions denying variance to build house are upheld

September 18, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Severna Park optician's plans to build a home on the Severn River received another setback when a state appeals court refused to overturn the decisions of a lower court and county zoning officials.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled that Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. was correct when he upheld a county Board of Appeals decision to deny a variance to F. Nicholas Codd to build on Sullivan Cove.

Codd said yesterday that he would appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeals or scale back the size of the proposed house and reapply to the Board of Appeals.

"I'm certainly willing to compromise," Codd said. "All we need at this point is some direction as to what we need to get it approved."

Thieme ruled Aug. 1, 1995, that the county Board of Appeals had sufficient grounds to deny Codd a variance because of concerns about potential flooding, water pollution and harm to vegetation.

The appeals court said yesterday that trial judges are supposed to reverse zoning boards only if their decisions are obviously flawed.

"We will not substitute our judgment for that of the agency as long as the agency's decision is 'fairly debatable' in light of the evidence presented," the court said in a 31-page, unsigned opinion.

In its 1994 ruling, the Board of Appeals left the door open for Codd to win a variance for a house smaller than the 1,720-square-foot dwelling he had planned on his 11,175-square-foot tract.

Codd's parents, Francis I. and Florence V. Codd, paid about $6,000 in 1962 for what was considered a buildable lot, but they allowed it to be assessed as unbuildable before a series of state shoreline protection laws took effect in 1993.

Codd began working with county planners to develop the lot in 1988 and over the years won tentative state and federal approvals to build.

But on Nov. 4, 1994, the Board of Appeals denied him the variance, which is required by Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Critical Area law for anyone wanting to build within 100 feet of a shoreline.

Neighbors also objected to Codd's plan, arguing that the site is the kind of environmentally fragile tract that the state's critical-areas regulations are meant to protect.

Pub Date: 9/18/96

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