Planning board rejects two housing proposals Commissioners vote 4-3 to approve retail project for site off Liberty Road

September 18, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The Planning and Zoning Commission overwhelmingly rejected residential subdivisions in South Carroll and Westminster yesterday, then narrowly approved a 14,000-square-foot commercial center in Eldersburg.

The 5-1 vote to reject preliminary plans for 30 lots on 90 acres in the Jenna Estates subdivision in Sykesville reaffirmed a Feb. 20 commission decision.

The developer, Shub Family Limited Partnership, appealed the earlier decision to the Board of Zoning Appeals, which sent the case back to the planning commission for reconsideration.

As with the first vote, board members cited inadequate facilities yesterday -- especially school crowding -- as the reason for rejecting the plans.

Commission member Robert H. Lennon, a Westminster attorney, urged approval of the preliminary plans, saying that to do so "would not put one child in school or one emergency vehicle on call."

But commission member Grant S. Dannelly of Marriottsville took exception, saying the problem with that argument was Lennon himself. "When we get to final approval, he doesn't vote to deny," Dannelly said.

Lennon told Dannelly he would like to see some examples of such votes.

Commission Chairwoman Robin M. Frazier of Manchester gaveled the commission to order and called a vote. It was 5-1, with Lennon voting for approval.

Lennon also cast the only vote to approve final plans for an eight-lot subdivision on 28 acres in the Sharon's Ridge subdivision off Old Westminster Road in Westminster. As with the South Carroll subdivision, the commission rejected the Sharon's Ridge plans because of overcrowded schools.

Owner-developer J. Robert Johnson, who told the commission he has been trying to develop the property since 1987, said he was being penalized because of a unique way the school system was measuring capacity at Friendship Valley Elementary School.

If he were coming in with preliminary plans, his project would be approved because the inadequacies would be removed by the time he was ready to build, Johnson said.

He told commission members he would be willing to wait until Sept. 1 before building or recording his lots and make that a condition of approval.

The commission voted 5-1 against that proposal, however.

The vote on the site plan for a retail business center off Liberty Road in Eldersburg was much closer, forcing Frazier, who only votes in case of a tie, to cast her ballot. She voted for the center.

Earlier, Westminster attorney David K. Bowersox told the commission that the only issue before it was whether the planning staff had done its job in making sure the 1.5-acre commercial site plan conformed to the county Master Plan.

"You're limited to whether this plan conforms to the technical requirements," he told commission members. They were not to make policy or give advice in this instance, he said.

Regardless, some commission members tried to do that. They objected to the Liberty Road access to the property, fearing it would worsen traffic congestion there.

After several attempts to get the builder to find an alternative failed -- the property is blocked from behind until the county builds a service road there -- the commission voted 4-3 to approve the development.

Pub Date: 9/18/96

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