Judge orders Hampstead to grant permits for condos Town may appeal ruling reversing zoning board

October 22, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County Circuit Court judge has reversed a Hampstead Board of Zoning Appeals decision and ordered the town to grant permits to builder Martin K. P. Hill for 90 planned condominiums at the Roberts Field development.

Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin said the Town Council will meet in a closed session tonight to discuss the issue and possibly decide whether to appeal the judge's Oct. 14 ruling.

In a written opinion finding for Hill and his Woodhaven Building and Development Inc., Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. said the voluminous record in the case tells a "largely uncontroverted story" of the town's approvals for Roberts Field dating back to 1981.

"The Court agrees with Woodhaven's contention that this record shows a studied and knowing series of approvals by public officials in a public process," Burns wrote.

Thus, the judge decided not to send the case back to the town's Board of Zoning Appeals but rather to order the town to issue the necessary permit for the condominiums.

The concept plan and various plats were reviewed and approved by the town from 1984 through 1992, Burns said, and the 90 condominiums represent the last section of the planned development. The town had approved hundreds of permits -- until it denied a necessary construction permit in September 1996.

Reached for comment, Hill singled out one passage of the opinion in which Burns wrote: "There is not a scintilla of evidence in the record to suggest that any sort of fraud, deceit or funny business of any kind was going on during the approval process."

"I felt that was a really important part of the decision," Hill said, "because I felt it eliminated the ability for someone to have a justifiable belief that this may have been such an action, and we just slipped by on a technicality."

Hill said he doesn't have any immediate plans to start building the condominiums.

"I personally would like to sit down with the town and see if we can't reach an understanding, that we can agree not to disagree, and then reach a decision," he said.

In his opinion, Judge Burns said it was after November 1993, when Woodhaven obtained site-plan approval for the condominium project from the town planning commission, that the town actively but unsuccessfully began to challenge and question various permits.

But until it denied the permit that led to the court case, the judge said, town officials had never alleged any zoning violations regarding density or open space.

Then in April 1996, the town adopted an ordinance that would have nullified the project's site-plan approval unless construction began by mid-September 1996, Burns said. But when Hill sought a permit in early September to begin this work on excavation, piers and footings, the town denied the permit -- leading to the court case.

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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