Developer, Hampstead make their cases in court Hill fights ruling of zoning appeals board that halted condo project

November 27, 1997|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Developer Martin K. P. Hill's continuing dispute with the town of Hampstead over construction of his proposed Robert's Field condominium project entered the courtroom yesterday.

Hill is appealing a ruling in April by the Hampstead Board of Zoning Appeals, which found that the developer was in violation of town requirements relating to density, open space and lot size.

The action has blocked Hill from proceeding with plans to build 90 condominiums as the last section of the Robert's Field subdivision.

In an administrative hearing yesterday before Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr., lawyers for Hill and the town presented arguments.

The proposed condominium development has been at the center of clashes involving Hill and Hampstead officials. The disagreement culminated in September 1996 when the town zoning administrator, Neil Ridgely, issued a stop work order at the project construction site. He subsequently denied Hill's application for building permits.

Ridgely claimed that the condominium development was short 16 acres of open space and exceeded the maximum density allowable under town law.

After hearing testimony on the case earlier this year, the Hampstead Board of Zoning Appeals upheld Ridgely's decisions.

Hill's lawyer, Clark Shaffer, argued yesterday that Hampstead went after Hill for zoning violations to try to kill the condominium -- project.

"Someone is looking with a proverbial fine-tooth comb trying to find anything that's a violation so as to prevent a condominium development from occurring on the last piece of developable land in Robert's Field," Shaffer said.

He maintained that Ridgely's refusal to issue building permits to Hill is illegal because the Hampstead Planning Commission approved the condominium site plan in 1994.

"These issues were reviewed and talked about and then approved," Shaffer said.

Thomas Gisriel, Hampstead's attorney, told Burns that Hampstead's Board of Zoning Appeals agreed with Ridgely's determination that the condominium project did not meet town density requirements.

Ridgely found that Hill built three-bedroom townhouses in the first section of Robert's Field, although record plats for the development showed that he was to build two-bedroom units. For that reason, Ridgely said that Hill was entitled to 44 remaining units for the condominium development instead of 90.

"They used up their approved density," Gisriel said.

The Board of Zoning Appeals supported Ridgely's conclusion that the condominium project failed to meet the town's zoning laws because the site plan designated utility easements as open space.

"The town ordinance is absolutely clear," Gisriel said. "It calls for no interpretation; it's not ambiguous."

The Board of Zoning Appeals also agreed with Ridgely's contention that the size of the condominium site failed to meet town code.

The arguments over zoning issues may be irrelevant if Burns affirms the Board of Zoning Appeals decision that Hill's site plan for the Robert's Field condominiums has expired. According to a 1995 town law, if construction on a development has not begun two years after the approval of the site plan, then the plan expires.

"If they want to build condominiums, they'll have to come back and submit a new site plan and get it approved," Gisriel said.

Shaffer argued that the sunset provision doesn't apply because the town illegally withheld the building permits from Hill.

Pub Date: 11/27/97

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