Foes of condos armed in paper

Circuit judge deluged with documentation in appeal of ruling

June 25, 1999|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A year after Howard County officials approved a 116-unit condominium complex for senior citizens in Glenwood, the battle continues -- this time in Circuit Court.

Yesterday, Circuit Judge Lenore R. Gelfman held a status conference on an appeal brought by the development's opponents. Much like the four-month fight before the Board of Appeals last year, the opponents of Donald Reuwer's development have been relentless, burying Gelfman in paper work, motions, letters and exhibits.

And the fight may have just begun.

"This is just the start," Susan Gray, attorney for the opponents, said after the status conference. "This is a small piece of very extensive and fundamental issues."

Gray said she might consider taking the case to federal court.

David Carney, attorney for Reuwer, and attorneys for the county, which is also a party to the appeal, are fighting it. Carney said he expected nothing less.

"It's all nonsense," Carney said, referring to the appeal. "It's to stop the project, delay it as long as possible."

Gelfman and her legal clerk have had to devise a system to keep track of the large number of documents. It includes a large folding-file, other files and lists of pending motions.

"It really took us hours to put this together," Gelfman said during the conference.

But even with the new system, some files, including one on waterborne pathogens, seemed to be missing.

"I can't wait to read that report," Gelfman said.

And other papers seemed out of place.

"There are some documents here, and I'm not sure where they go," Gelfman said, holding up a file folder titled, "Miscellaneous."

Toward the end of the two-hour conference, after going through a chart she created to track the motions, Gelfman scheduled arguments on several for July 23. The appeal hearing has a tentative date of Nov. 4.

"I've addressed every motion," she said. "Unless someone files one this afternoon. Anybody else have any other motions" concerning them?

Gray, a slow-growth activist, represents Joe Carta, an opponent whose home adjoins the proposed development, The Villas of Cattail Creek.

Gray, who joined the Cattail fight during the appeals board hearings even though she lives in Highland, has promised to argue the case for as long as it takes.

She says her appeal centers on three issues: The Board of Appeals didn't have jurisdiction to hear the case; the opponents didn't get due process or a fair hearing; and the criteria required to get a special exception were not met.

The Board of Appeals approved the project on a 3 to 1 vote in May last year.

Residents fought the project last year, they said, because the dense development would be out of place in rural western Howard County, increase traffic and harm the environment.

Reuwer sought and gained a special zoning exception to build the complex on 58 acres. Reuwer has said that each condo will cost $210,000 to $250,000.

Under the special exception, only residents older than 60 or married to someone older than 60 would be allowed to live in the 1,800- to 2,000-square-foot condos. Unlike assisted-living centers, the Villas would be designed for active seniors.

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