Proposed addition to house on Magothy shore rejected Owner could meet her needs in other ways, hearing officer says

February 03, 1997|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County zoning official has denied a request from an Annapolis widow who wants to build an addition to her Magothy River shore cottage in Cape St. Claire so that her son can live with her.

Administrative Hearing Officer Robert C. Wilcox ruled against Mary Ross because the 512-square-foot addition she proposed at the back of her home didn't seem to be the only way to solve her problem and because zoning variances are granted only when following the rules would cause undue hardship.

Ross, who would not give her age, said, "Since I lost my husband [six years ago], my son, Michael, wanted to have a bedroom and live in the house and take care of the place. I'm not young anymore. I would like to think I could bring my own son in to take care of me if I wanted to, but there's no space for it.

"I'm very disappointed," said Ross, who said she might take her case to the Board of Appeals.

She blames the county for "preventing me from letting my son come home."

Ross lives in the one-bedroom cottage on Persimmon Point, on the north side of River Bay Road. The house is in an area classified for limited development under the state Critical Area law, which is designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

The county code requires a minimum 100-foot buffer between buildings and the shore. Her proposed addition would be within 64 feet of the Magothy River.

Neighbor Susan Cohen wrote a letter Jan. 2 opposing the proposal and suggesting that "other, less intrusive designs should be explored before allowing new development closer to the water."

Wilcox noted that Cohen's home is closer to the Magothy River than Ross' house.

Other neighbors asked why a second-story room couldn't be built on the existing house.

Richard F. Seggel, who has an architectural firm in Edgewater, told Wilcox that the home's foundation could not support such a room.

Ultimately, Wilcox said, his decision was based on the fact that zoning "variances are granted for reasons of absolute necessity, and not mere convenience or preference."

Ross could easily transform a sun room in the home into a bedroom, he said.

"It would appear that the design that was selected in the case is wholly dictated by aesthetic preferences," Wilcox said.

Ross remained unpersuaded.

"It was all country when we first came down here to live," said Ross, who moved into the house with her husband in 1964. "Now, it's just bulging at the seams. All this development around me, and yet it amazes me that I can't build on my own house.

Pub Date: 2/03/97

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