Court asked to reconsider denial of school's variance

Height exemption refusal set back academy plans

May 28, 1999|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County man who wants to build a private school in Finksburg has asked Carroll County Circuit Court to reconsider a recent decision that set back his plans.

Frederick G. Smith, a dentist and a vice president of Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., wants to build Gerstell Academy, a nonreligious, nonprofit day school for several hundred students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

But his architect's design for Georgian-style brick buildings with white columns and a large gymnasium requires a change in height limits, from 35 feet to 55 feet, he said, to prevent sprawl and to preserve open space.

The height variance was granted by the Carroll County zoning administrator in August and by the Board of Zoning Appeals after a hearing in October.

Saying a private academy is a quasi-public use and that the height exception was needed for the project, the zoning appeals board voted unanimously to allow the height variance. County planners also supported the project.

A neighboring property owner, the M.E.F. Partnership, took the zoning appeals board decision to Carroll County Circuit Court, where Judge Daniel W. Moylan ruled against Smith on May 13.

Moylan, a retired judge from Washington County who is hearing cases in Carroll, ruled the zoning appeals board was wrong.

Moylan said a private school is not a quasi-public building. The judge also ruled that the variance should not be allowed just because the school could not be built according to the architect's design.

The judge suggested at the time that a motion for reconsideration be filed. Smith's attorney did so yesterday, asking the court to amend its judgment.

The motion argues that the law does not allow a judge to substitute his judgment for the appeals board decision -- if that decision is supported by the facts.

Smith took ownership last month of the 93-acre parcel in the 2600 block of Old Westminster Pike. Although the existing zoning would allow him to build 50 houses, he said he planned to keep the land in a public foundation he created a few years ago, the Freven Foundation, and preserve it from development.

Pub Date: 5/28/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.