Hampstead council delays vote on Roberts Field compromise

Opponents of development want its size reduced

February 10, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

In the wake of public opposition and an internal squabble, the Hampstead Town Council made no decision last night on a proposed compromise with developers that would allow 66 instead of 90 condominium units to be built in the Roberts Field development.

Councilman Wayne H. Thomas opposed dropping the appeal, noting that the town has invested much time and $42,000 in trying to keep builder Martin K. P. Hill and Woodhaven Building and Development Inc. from cramming 90 units into Roberts Field, the last phase of the development east of Route 30 and south of Lower Beckleysville Road.

While public opposition last night was minimal, centering on the location of large metal trash containers, council members said those details probably could be worked out with the builder.

Mayor Christopher M. Nevin said he would not offer an opinion on any aspect of the project because of a conflict of interest -- his employment at Provident Bank, which does business with the developers. "As a matter of ethics, I must abstain," he told council members and about 30 others attending the meeting.

Thomas raised a number of questions, saying he wanted to protect the town in the future. He wondered where the amended site plan for the project would be recorded, to guarantee that no additional units are built -- even if the property is eventually sold.

He also presented a letter from the Piney Run Preservation Association of Baltimore County, which opposes the project because of the potential impact of drainage from the site on the waterway.

Councilmen Stephen A. Holland and Haven N. Shoemaker Jr. favored adoption of the agreement with the developers. They said they want to limit legal expenses and assure that open space will be preserved.

Holland Shoemaker brokered the proposed compromise in December, figuring it was better to accept 66 units than risk losing the appeal and having 90 units.

The town had sought to halt construction in 1996. Former town manager Neil A. Ridgely, who served as zoning administrator, ordered construction stopped because the building permit had expired. Ridgely resigned last month.

At issue was whether the condominium project lacked sufficient open space and exceeded density limits, even though a site plan had been approved in 1993.

Hill, who has said he has no immediate plans to build the condominiums, sought relief from Hampstead's Board of Zoning Appeals. That board upheld Ridgely's decision and the dispute moved into Circuit Court.

Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. rendered a decision in October, favoring the developer and chastising the town's zoning administrator and zoning appeals board for failing to raise concerns over density and open space until long after the site plan had been approved.

Burns noted that hundreds of permits had been granted for the condominium project between 1984 and 1996 when the final permit was withheld. He ordered the town to issue a final construction permit to Hill and Woodhaven.

The Hampstead Town Council voted to appeal Burns' ruling.

A vote by the council to pursue a compromise would not mean the town and developer are in total agreement. Details of the compromise would have to be worked out and both sides would have to sign a formal agreement, Holland said.

Pub Date: 2/10/99

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