40 irritated neighbors attend 3-hour hearing on planned island club

They oppose variance for St. Helena property

February 12, 1999|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

More than 40 angry Crownsville residents showed up at an Anne Arundel County hearing yesterday to rail against an Annapolis businessman's plan to turn part of a secluded island in Little Round Bay into a private club for weddings and parties.

The residents, and Annapolis Alderman Louise Hammond and Gregory C. Pinkard, a Baltimore businessman whose family owns a third of St. Helena Island just off the Severn River, voiced their opposition during a three-hour hearing before Stephen M. LeGendre, the county administrative hearing officer.

LeGendre will decide whether to grant a variance needed to operate the club on the 15-acre island.

Keith Osborne, owner of Fantasy Island Management Inc. of Annapolis, wants to establish the Private Club at St. Helena on the 6 acres on the island he bought four years ago for $1.2 million. The island is zoned residential, but a private club would be allowed as long as it was not for profit.

Osborne needs the variance to obtain a county certificate of use to operate as a private club. Last summer, without the certificate, he held eight or nine weddings on his property.

"These events cause a devastating effect on the tranquillity and the privacy of our neighborhoods," said Kathleen Winter of Palisades on the Severn, whose back yard faces the island.

"One must take into account that sound travels over water at greater distances. I am sitting on my screened porch, a favorite summer hangout for family and friends, and we are unable to escape the music. We listened to `Under the Boardwalk,' `Louie Louie' and others," Winter said.

Osborne said -- to snickering from the audience -- that weddings and parties on the island have not been as lengthy and disruptive as residents claim because they have ended by 9 p.m.

His attorney, Samuel Brown, repeatedly urged LeGendre to focus on the variance, not on such issues as whether the club would be disruptive or would be a commercial operation.

If approved, the variance would waive county requirements that the club provide on-site parking and that the building be 100 feet from an adjoining lot Osborne owns.

Brown suggested that because the club building -- a 1929 replica of the Homewood House on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University -- is at least 100 feet from lots owned by others, the setback should not be an issue.

He argued that providing on-site parking for club members was unnecessary because they will travel to the island by chartered boats from City Dock in Annapolis. Osborne said he had an oral agreement with Towne Park Ltd., which handles parking at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, to provide spaces for guests' vehicles and to bus guests to the dock.

When County Planner Kevin P. Dooley and the Crownsville residents' attorney, Edwin A. Lechowicz, asked for documentation of the parking agreement, Brown said, "We can't make all our final plans until the decision on the variance has been made."

Said Hammond, who represents downtown Annapolis on the city council: "Let's get into the reality of the situation. Wedding guests are not going to park at the Naval Academy stadium and take a bus down. They're going to drive downtown, they're going to park at the metered spaces that are for people who are patronizing the businesses of our district, not some venture up the river.

"We do not want the county businesses using us, the city, as their dumping ground," Hammond said.

LeGendre has 30 days to decide on the variance. Both sides then have 30 days to appeal the decision.

In the meantime, county attorneys -- who sued Fantasy Island Management on Oct. 30, charging that it was operating illegally as a commercial concern in a residential area -- might seek a preliminary injunction to prevent Osborne from holding weddings on the island once the weather warms up.

David A. Plymyer, deputy county attorney, said they also are working to get a court date.

Pub Date: 2/12/99

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