Court rejects plea by foes of subdivision

February 06, 1997|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

A state appeals court has denied a request by Hampstead residents that it reconsider its ruling rejecting the group's challenge to a controversial housing development.

The residents, who initiated their case in September 1994 in an effort to overturn the Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission's approval of the North Carroll Farms IV development, appealed to the Court of Special Appeals after unsuccessfully taking the case to the Hampstead Board of Zoning Appeals and Carroll County Circuit Court.

Thomas J. Gisriel, the group's attorney, said the residents have not decided whether to appeal to the state's highest court after last week's denial of the reconsideration request.

Last month, the citizens group asked the Court of Special Appeals to review its December finding that Hampstead Councilman Stephen A. Holland and about 160 neighbors lacked standing to fight developer Martin K. P. Hill's planned 220-home development.

The court found that Holland and his neighbors didn't meet the legal definition of "aggrieved status" because the planned development didn't affect them any differently from the way it affected the general public.

The group has argued that the development would further strain Hampstead's public facilities, including roads, schools and water systems.

Holland sought a reconsideration based on a Court of Appeals finding in another case, Sugarloaf Citizens Association vs. the Department of the Environment, which came 15 days after the initial decision on the North Carroll Farms case.

In the Sugarloaf case, the state's highest court found that it was inappropriate for a court to defer to the ruling of an administrative body to determine whether a party is "aggrieved" and that it must independently assess the evidence.

The Hampstead citizens group maintained that the ruling was applicable in their case because the Court of Special Appeals had based its decision on an earlier ruling by an administrative body, the Hampstead Board of Zoning Appeals.

The Court of Special Appeals disagreed, finding that the Sugarloaf case involved an administrative body's making a determination on whether the citizens had judicial standing and whether the case could be appealed to Circuit Court.

The Hampstead case differed, the court said, because it involved a ruling by an administrative body -- the Hampstead Board of Zoning Appeals -- on the citizens' administrative standing to challenge North Carroll Farms IV.

The Hampstead board had ruled that Holland did not have standing to challenge the subdivision because he did not own adjacent property.

The Hampstead Town Council passed a law in 1995 giving any taxpayer the right to appeal zoning decisions, but the law was ruled invalid by Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck.

The Court of Special Appeals did not address the validity of the law in its December ruling.

Pub Date: 2/06/97

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