Club owners lose ruling on office buildings

Balto. County official rejects Greenspring Racquet plan

September 24, 1999|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

The owners of the Greenspring Racquet Club again have failed in their effort to persuade Baltimore County officials to allow them to build two office buildings and a parking garage on 5.5 acres at Falls and Greenspring Valley roads.

A county hearing officer ruled this week that William and Loretta Hirshfeld, the club's owners, fell short in proving that their project should be exempt from a new county law that restricts development next to rural areas.

Timothy Kotroco, the hearing officer, said the Hirshfelds failed to show that their project would not be detrimental to the surrounding area.

The Hirshfelds and business partner Howard Brown have tried repeatedly to win approval for the office and parking structures. They propose a five-story, 110,000-square-foot office building, a six-story, 132,000-square-foot office building and a four-story, 342,000-square-foot-parking garage. The tallest building on the site would be 78 feet -- more than twice what county law allows there.

They unsuccessfully petitioned the planning board to change the zoning on their land and have filed suit in federal and state courts challenging the county law that is restricting their development.

In this most recent effort to win approval of their projects, the Hirshfelds tried to use a loophole in the law, which in general prohibits construction of buildings 35 feet or higher if they are within 750 feet of land zoned for rural conservation. A hearing officer can approve a taller project if the developer proves the building will not have an adverse impact on a surrounding locality.

Experts for the Hirshfelds testified about the impact on the adjacent Green Spring Station commercial complex, but Kotroco ruled that the Hirshfelds' definition of the surrounding locality was too narrow and needed to take into account a larger community. The Hirshfelds have 30 days to appeal the ruling to the county Board of Appeals.

In their pending lawsuits against the county, the Hirshfelds say that the county law restricting development near rural areas is unconstitutional because it is "selective legislation," aimed only at stopping their project and an adjacent development at Green Spring Station.

The owners of Green Spring Station, who want to build an eight-story office and parking structure, have been unable to get building permits because of the law, which was enacted last fall.

Pub Date: 9/24/99

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