Court review is sought by Guilford church

Board of Appeals action on building plan at issue

April 09, 1999|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The battle over a proposed expansion by First Baptist Church of Guilford has moved from one hearing room to another.

The 95-year-old church has asked the Howard County Circuit Court to review the Board of Appeals' dismissal March 4 of the institution's plan to build a 2,000-seat sanctuary, a 636-space parking lot and a 34,000-square-foot community center on 8.5 acres at Guilford and Oakland Mills roads.

James L. Rouse, an attorney representing the church who filed the request March 31, said the board violated its own bylaws by changing its original vote in September to approve the expansion.

"The code says that once a vote has been taken, the only thing left to do is issue a decision and order," Rouse said.

But Thomas M. Meachum, an attorney representing a group of community activists opposing the church's plan, disagreed.

"There's no decision by the board until it signs a decision and order," Meachum said. "Until it signs one, it can discuss the case as many times as it wants and it can change its mind as many times as it wants."

Meachum filed a petition for judicial review Monday, asking the court to rule that the board's 2-2 vote should be counted as a denial, not a dismissal.

The semantics is significant in that a denial would prohibit the church from seeking approval for the expansion for two years. A dismissal would allow the church to file a new plan later this spring.

Rouse downplayed the counter-petition and hinted that the church could be meeting with the Guilford community as early as next week.

Meachum said he has heard that the church is preparing another plan.

"We would welcome a discussion with the church at any time," he said.

Pub Date: 4/09/99

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