Planning Board votes against rezoning plans

March 02, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Planning Board -- vowing not to "turn Montgomery Road into another Route 40" -- has rejected two proposals that would have paved the way for two restaurants and an office building.

The five-member board voted unanimously Wednesday night to recommend denial of proposals to rezone property across from Long Gate Center on Route 103 -- known locally as Montgomery Road -- from residential to business.

"We already have a Route 40," said Robert Geiger, who chairs the panel. "To turn Montgomery Road into another Route 40 doesn't make sense."

Added board member Theodore Mariani: "I really think that it would cause irreparable harm to the surrounding properties. I see no rationale to do it at this time."

The board's decision pleased a handful of residents who fought both proposals.

"I'm happy that [the Planning Board is] listening," said David Catanai, treasurer of the Wheatfield Homeowners Association. "However, is the Zoning Board going to listen? We'll fight this."

The Zoning Board will review both cases April 22.

The controversy results from a proposal by Crofton-based Davco Restaurants Inc. to change the zoning on four parcels totaling more than 6 acres on the north side of Route 103. The company has said that if the change is approved, it would build a Wendy's and a Friendly's there.

Montgomery Road Partnership is seeking to rezone a 1.3-acre tract adjacent to the Davco site to build an office building.

To get a property rezoned, an applicant must prove either that there was a mistake in the original zoning of the land or that the character of the surrounding neighborhood has changed.

David Carney, a Columbia attorney representing both petitioners, told the board that the Zoning Board erred when it changed the zoning for a tract that eventually became the Long Gate Center without doing the same for the two sites.

He also said that additional traffic lanes and lights on Montgomery Road have changed the character of the neighborhood.

But residents complained that additional businesses would attract more traffic and crime.

Catanai said he moved from Prince George's County nine years ago to avoid commercialization.

"If we allow this to happen, we're going to increase the risk of more traffic, more crime, more accidents and the lowering of our quality of life," Catanai told the board. "Let's keep it the way it is."

Clark Shoeffield, who lives in nearby Worthington Way, said he fears the rezoning could convert the corridor into another prominent thoroughfare.

"I see a lot of people trying to make Montgomery Road a Ritchie Highway," Shoeffield said. "I like Wendy's and Friendly's, but there's a place for those businesses, and this isn't it."

Carney did not return phone messages seeking comment.

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Pub Date: 3/02/98

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