Rash farm rezoning decision postponed

Legal advice sought on golf course project

August 25, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

Meeting in closed session with attorneys yesterday,the county commissioners voted to postpone a decision on a landmark rezoning case that would allow three South Carroll brothers to develop an upscale golf course community on their family farm.

The commissioners, who had planned to take a vote yesterday afternoon, agreed to make a decision within 45 days.

"We all had some questions, and we asked for legal advice this morning to clarify a few things, which actually brought up other issues we need to discuss," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.

Gouge said the board's busy summer schedule, including trips to state and national meetings, has prevented it from giving the case the time it deserves.

"This is an extremely important decision and we want the best for the county and the best for the Rashes," she said.

None of the commissioners would discuss which questions remain unanswered in the Rash family's request to rezone 145 acres of its 400-acre farm for 50 homes and a golf course.

"We had some legal questions to ask," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier, who declined to elaborate.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said the board needed to look at the "impact" of the rezoning.

The delay came as a surprise to brothers Claude, Edwin and Glenn Rash, who have been trying for about a decade to develop their land west of Route 97 near the Carroll-Howard border.

"I'm disappointed," said Claude Rash. "We are all disappointed. We were counting on the decision today."

But Rash, 62, who has served as the family's spokesman, remained optimistic that the case would eventually win the commissioners' approval.

"I'm not concerned about the case because we feel like we presented a good case," he said. "We feel that the longer it draws it out there is chance for more problems to come up."

One problem faced by the brothers is opposition to the rezoning by members of the county planning staff, who say the case could create a powerful precedent for other farmers seeking to develop their land.

If the project is approved, it would draw farmers away from the county's agricultural preservation program to seek the rewards of developing their land, county planners said.

But the proposal has the support of at least two of the three county commissioners.

A longtime Westminster dairyman, Dell voted in favor of the request in May as a member of the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Frazier also has indicated her support for the measure, saying she was leaning toward voting for it.

Gouge has declined to discuss her opinions on the case.

To win the commissioners' approval, the Rash brothers must prove an error was made in the original rezoning of their property or that the character of their neighborhood has changed substantially.

Charles D. Hollman, the family's attorney, has argued the county erred in 1978 when it rezoned farmland just north of the Rash farm for the Streamwood development but left the brothers' property in the agriculture zone.

Hollman also has presented evidence that the residents pouring into South Carroll have significantly changed the Rashes' neighborhood, making it difficult for farmers to move equipment on congested county roads.

Hollman's analysis does not agree with a report of the county planning staff, which indicated no evidence of a mistake in zoning.

The planning staff also said the increase in traffic and population are consistent with the county master plan.

Pub Date: 8/25/99

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