Carroll commissioners' approval sought to rezone farm for golf development

OK from planning panel is latest in long push

May 23, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

A Woodbine family that ran one of Carroll County's largest dairies for years is seeking county approval for an upscale golf course community on their property.

The Rash brothers, Claude, Edwin and Glenn, who have been trying for more than a decade to develop their land just west of Route 97 near the Carroll-Howard border, won the support of the county Planning and Zoning Commission last week.

The Rash Brothers Partnership wants 145 acres of its 400-acre farm rezoned from agricultural to residential to allow development of 50 homes. The planning panel recommended Tuesday that the county commissioners approve the proposal.

"We haven't been able to move on. We can't retire and do the things we want to do because this keeps dragging on," said Glenn Rash, 68, who runs a hay operation on the property.

His younger brother, Claude Rash, 61, drives a dump truck; Edwin, 72, is a driver for Carroll Transit.

"We'd like to slow down a little," Glenn said. "I enjoy hunting and Claude loves to play golf. All of us would like to retire."

It is not the first time the Rash Brothers Partnership has sought to have its land rezoned. Its original petition, filed in 1990, was the largest rezoning request to be presented to the county.

The 1990 proposal would have rezoned 360 acres and included 100 homes. It was turned down by the county commissioners in 1991 to allow time for study of the proposal. The Partnership submitted another rezoning request in 1996. It was shelved by the previous Board of County Commissioners.

The Rash family farmed in the county for more than 50 years, beginning in 1928. The three brothers took over the family's dairy operation in the 1960s. They closed the dairy business and began crop farming in the 1970s, as politicians put teeth into the environmental regulations governing the use of wetlands. The new rules would have required the brothers to move their dairy operation, a move they were unwilling to make.

Changing economic times and other factors, including the inability to move their farm equipment on congested county roads, prompted the Rashes to quit farming in the mid-1980s, Charles D. Hollman, the family's attorney, told the planning commission.

Increased traffic and the farm's proximity to homes made it impossible for the brothers to sustain a viable large-scale farming operation in the South Carroll area, Hollman said. The majority of the Rash property is leased to tenant farmers.

The planning panel voted 4-1 in favor of the plan. Melvin E. Beale Jr. was the only commission member to oppose it.

County Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who sits as the ex-officio member of the planning board, voted in favor of the rezoning and indicated he will support the request when it comes before the commissioners. Dell, a Westminster dairyman, is a strong advocate of private property rights.

The panel's recommendation is expected to be presented to the three-member Board of County Commissioners within two weeks.

Once the commissioners receive the planning panel's recommendation, it must schedule a public hearing on the petition. The planning panel's recommendation and any citizen comments made during the hearing will be considered by the commissioners before they make a decision.

To win the commissioners' approval, the Rash brothers must prove an error was made during the most recent comprehensive rezoning or that a previous change in zoning altered the character of the area. The Rashes filed their rezoning petition Dec. 29.

Hollman said his clients can prove both criteria, but county planners disagreed.

In a report to the planning commission, staff members indicated that the current agricultural zoning is consistent with the master plan and that there is no evidence to suggest a mistake was made during the last comprehensive rezoning. Staff members also found that there has been no change in the character of the neighborhood.

It is unclear when the farm will be carved into residential lots if the county commissioners approve the rezoning request.

The Rash brothers have not chosen a developer for the project.

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