Battle of the zoning boards Better road data could decide whether planning commission must go to court.

July 22, 1998

DELAY BY the Carroll County commissioners in funding a court appeal by the county's planning body may prove beneficial, despite the appearance of political temporizing. It could avoid a costly legal battle between the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The commissioners this week put off the planning commission's request for money to appeal the BZA's approval of the Promenade retail complex in Eldersburg. They want better information on needed road improvements at the site and further input from neighbors of the proposed 36-acre shopping-entertainment center at Route 32 and Londontown Boulevard.

The condition of roads and promised traffic improvements at the crossroads are most important in making the decision.

Neighbors have argued that their property values would plummet, though the land is zoned for industrial use.

The BZA approved a conditional use for building the retail complex on industrial land. The planning commission must prove to the court that the commercial use of the land would be more harmful to traffic and the community than light-industrial use. It would be a tough position to prove. But the commission worries that it would be powerless to set requirements on the Promenade when the developer comes to request site plan approval.

Differences between the BZA and the planning commission are frequent. There have been previous court challenges.

At one time, the friction was so great that the commissioners talked of abolishing the zoning appeals board, leaving authority with the planning commission and themselves.

This case, however, concerns a controversial large development, a case that took six days of hearings for the BZA to decide.

A short delay to gain information is prudent. But if the planning panel still believes it can make its legal case, the commissioners should authorize the funds.

Pub Date: 7/22/98

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