Racquet club owners argue plan is Smart Growth

Zoning officer's approval sought for office complex

April 20, 1999|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

The owners of Greenspring Racquet Club again are trying to get around a new county law that limits development of their property -- this time asking a county zoning commissioner for permission to build two office buildings and a garage.

Yesterday, in the first day of a two-day hearing, a consultant hired by the club's owners argued that the five- and six-story office buildings and attached four-deck garage would be in keeping with state efforts to curb sprawl.

"This is in line with the Smart Growth Initiative," said land planning consultant Sean Davis.

William and Loretta Hirshfeld, the owners, and business partner Howard Brown want to build the 584,000-square-foot project on the 5.5-acre racquet club site at Falls and Greenspring Valley roads.

Residents, however, oppose the development, saying area roads at this entrance to Green Spring Valley are congested.

The hearing is the latest in a series of tactics the Hirshfelds have tried in their effort to get around a law passed by the County Council last fall limiting construction near rural areas.

The law requires approval from a zoning commissioner to build commercial structures taller than 35 feet if they are within 750 feet of rural land.

To exempt a project from the height restriction, a hearing officer must find that the development would not endanger the health, safety or welfare of the neighborhood and that the project meets the size limitations found in business zones. The hearing officer also must determine, based on recommendations from county agencies, that the development would not be incompatible with contiguous rural land.

In yesterday's hearing, the Hirshfelds' lawyer, Robert H. Freilich, argued that compatibility with rural land is not relevant to the Hirshfeld proposal because the racquet club site is separated from rural land by a road.

In February, the Hirshfelds filed suit in U.S. District Court and in Baltimore County Circuit Court alleging that the new law is unconstitutional because it is "selective legislation."

Last month, they failed to persuade the County Planning Board to agree to a hearing on the property's zoning. The Hirshfelds had wanted to change the zoning to a designation that would not be subject to the new law.

Pub Date: 4/20/99

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