Church can be a good neighbor Anne Arundel County: Riverdale Baptist should undergo hearing, screen parking lot.

March 11, 1997

BY REJECTING Riverdale Baptist Church applications for building and grading permits for its 37,000-square-foot complex and several acres of parking in Davidsonville, the Anne Arundel County Planning and Code Enforcement Department clearly wants such massive developments in rural areas to undergo an orderly approval process.

Church officials should recognize that the most expeditious way to start construction on their project is to have the special exception hearing they have been resisting for half a year.

Church officials had believed that by eliminating some of the buildings and recreational facilities from their proposed complex and placing 351 parking spaces on an adjacent parcel of land, they would not reach the threshold that would trigger a special exception hearing. Planning officials ruled that dividing the parking lots between separate parcels would still trigger the special exception hearing.

Bill 93-96, approved by the County Council last year over the fierce opposition from Riverdale Baptist, requires a hearing for any development in a rural zone that has more than 100,000-square-feet of parking.

Some residents in Davidsonville obviously would like to see the 41-acre parcel at the southeastern corner of U.S. 50-301 and Route 424 to remain undeveloped. That is unrealistic.

Riverdale Baptist has the right to build on this land. However, residents have the right to voice their concerns and demand that the church take steps to minimize its impact on the surrounding community.

At issue is the handling of several acres of blacktop in a neighborhood of farm fields. To date, the church seems unconcerned about screening or beautifying its parking lots or even moving them farther from houses. Under current plans, adjacent property owners will feel as though they live next to a large shopping center rather than out in the country.

To show good faith, Riverdale Baptist Church should drop its current efforts to rejigger its plans to avoid a special hearing.

Allowing Davidsonville residents to express themselves and the county to impose certain requirements on the church development will probably defuse a great deal of the hostility the project has generated thus far.

Pub Date: 3/11/97

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