Board delays decision on reopening glider port At least one more session set in long-running case

September 17, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Board of Zoning Appeals postponed a decision yesterday on whether to allow a Woodbine glider port to reopen, guaranteeing that the longest-running case in board history will continue for at least one more session.

Neighbors of the Woodbine Glider Port testified at a daylong hearing yesterday that allowing the airstrip to reopen would mean a return to the noise of airplane engines and danger of crashes that marred their weekends before the airstrip closed in March 1997.

Farmer and airstrip owner Michael R. Harrison presented his arguments for reopening the glider port to the board at an Aug. 26 hearing. He said he needs income from the glider port to keep his farm in operation.

The board deferred a decision so that its attorney can research the law on what limits a zoning appeals board can impose on an airport operation. But the consensus among board members favored allowing a private airport, possibly noncommercial, with restrictions that might include a ban on gliders.

"Gliders seem to be the sore spot. If we could somehow eliminate the gliders, that would kind of keep everyone happy a little bit," board member Karl V. Reichlin said after hearing neighbors object to the constant steady sound as tow planes circle to gain the altitude needed to release gliders.

Board alternate Marlin Hoff suggested that if Harrison had been able to work with Woodbine resident Bernard A. Schwartz, who has fought the glider port operation since 1984, "there would have been fewer hearings."

Harrison's father, Robert L. Harrison, received appeals board permission for a private commercial airport on his 172-acre farm in 1972. Neighbors formed Woodbine Concerned Citizens to seek limits on the airport operation after a pilot and passenger were killed in a 1982 plane crash in a field adjacent to the airport.

In 1984, the opponents took their case to the appeals board, which imposed conditions on the glider port operation. The case went through Maryland courts for 12 years, when the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled against the airport operation. The county ordered Harrison to close after a March 1997 crash alerted county officials that it was still operating.

Michael Harrison, who conducted his attempt to reopen without a lawyer, said he did not receive any notice to close from the county until after the 1997 crash.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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