Developer still without home permits Council at odds over agreement between Hill, mayor

'Legally up in the air'

North Carroll Farms plan ignores zoning laws, opponents say

September 27, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Developer Martin K. P. Hill hoped to walk out of Wednesday night's special Hampstead Town Council meeting with building permits for two model homes in his North Carroll Farms IV subdivision.

But after three hours of debate on a proposed agreement between Hill and Mayor Christopher M. Nevin to resolve disputes over the planned 220-unit subdivision, Hill left the meeting empty-handed. The council voted to resume discussion of the agreement at its Oct. 8 meeting.

The agreement is the result of eight months of discussions between Hill, Nevin and Councilman Lawrence H. Hentz over storm water management, water quality and open space. Conflicts over the outstanding issues led Hampstead officials in November to revoke building permits for the subdivision. Construction has been delayed for more than a year.

"I would like to have seen them vote on it," Hill said yesterday, noting that he understands the council's request for more time to study the proposal.

"It's a fair agreement, and all parties know what they're going to get and what they have to do," he said.

Much of Wednesday's meeting, which drew about 50 people, focused on the legality of the agreement and how it would affect a pending court case, which challenges the town's 1994 approval of North Carroll Farms IV. The lawsuit is before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Nevin and Hentz maintained that approval of the agreement would allow Hampstead to avoid protracted legal battles with Hill over the subdivision. The fact that Hill has an approved site plan from Hampstead's previous Planning and Zoning Commission strengthens his position legally, they said.

Council members Wayne H. Thomas and Stephen A. Holland repeatedly expressed concern that the agreement ignores town zoning laws. They said Hill should be required to submit a revised site plan to the planning commission.

At times, the disagreements led to tense exchanges between Nevin and the two councilmen.

"I've got better things to do for this town than argue court cases and read legal briefs," Nevin said.

"I disagree entirely that you have better things to do than save this town from improper development," Holland replied. "We're turning into the old administration; we're saying, 'Let them [developers] do what they want.' "

Based on Wednesday's council meeting, the most controversial aspect of the negotiated agreement between Hill and Nevin is a provision to grant Hill building permits for the subdivision. According to the proposal, Hill would receive two permits for model homes if the council approves the proposed agreement. Upon completion of the outlined work addressing storm water management, water quality and open space issues, Hill would be entitled to additional permits.

Thomas asserted that the council doesn't have the power to approve the issuance of building permits and that the power rests with the town zoning administrator. Holland argued that the permits should not be granted until all adequate facilities issues are addressed. Before his election to the council in 1995, Holland and three other town residents initiated the lawsuit that now is before the appellate court, claiming that local schools and roads could not support the subdivision.

Nevin said adequate facilities and the issues addressed in the proposed agreement are separate matters. He said the proposal does not override a court ruling in the case.

"I think issuing any building permits before all issues are heard is a bad thing for the town," Holland said.

The agreement's solution to open space issues at North Carroll Farms IV also drew objections from Thomas and Holland. The proposal calls for Hill to buy 6.6 acres of "contiguous or other usable land" to be deeded to Hampstead. Last fall, the town manager cited Hill for violating zoning laws for not providing enough open space in the subdivision.

Thomas said that town law calls for open space land to be within the development and included in a site plan.

Nevin defended the proposal, saying the land under consideration -- at Upper Forde's Lane and Route 30 -- is near the subdivision and will be used to build a town park. Hentz acknowledged that the legality of the deal is questionable but said it was the best option for the town and future North Carroll Farms IV residents.

"The bottom line is we're trying to get the open space for that community," Hentz said. "Whether it's absolutely the right thing to do legally is up in the air."

Other provisions of the proposed agreement between Hill and Nevin call for the developer to:

Install an additional pipe under Route 30 to reduce the possibility of storm water runoff from North Carroll Farms IV, which could damage a town well and recreational facilities in Miller Park.

Provide a well for the subdivision that meets county and state requirements and post a two-year, $50,000 bond with the town to ensure that the well water meets the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Provide safety features required by the state, including flashing light signals, warning signs and railroad pavement markings, as part of the construction of a development road over railroad tracks at Farm Woods Lane.

Pub Date: 9/27/96

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