County commissioners issue reports to justify stand on rezoning vote

Baltimore group might take legal action

October 06, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

Opening the door to legal appeals of its decision, a divided Board of County Commissioners released yesterday its written opinion granting Carroll's largest rezoning request in nearly 30 years.

In a 10-page decision, Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier said the Rash brothers have met the legal standard to rezone 145 acres of their South Carroll farm for a 50-home golf course community. That standard requires a change in the character of the neighborhood or a mistake in zoning.

Against strong objections by the state, Dell and Frazier voted in favor of the rezoning in August, while Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge voted against it.

In a two-page dissent, Gouge argued that the Rashes failed on both criteria. The changes in the neighborhood, including the increase in traffic and population, were anticipated in the county's master plan. No mistake was made in zoning: the Rash property was originally zoned for agriculture in 1965, and again in 1978.

"What causes me the most concern about the majority's decision, is its long range effect on farming in Carroll County," Gouge wrote. "The respect of the community for farming will diminish. The decision will further hamper farmers and citizens from viewing agricultural preservations as positive. Finally, there could well be a domino effect in South Carroll, with nearby farms claiming change or mistake and using the majority's decision as leverage."

Under county law, anyone who wants to appeal the commissioners' decision must do so by Nov. 1, County Attorney Laurell Taylor said.

One organization considering legal action is 1000 Friends of Maryland, a Baltimore-based group concerned about growth-management issues.

"We're going to look at it. We want to review that written opinion and get a sense of it and make a decision," said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, the group's executive director. "Whether or not we take legal action, it is something we have serious concerns about. We are very concerned that it sets a precedent for other counties to make similar decisions."

Members of the local branch of the Sierra Club have had discussions about an appeal, but will most likely not pursue one, said Greg Becker, vice chairman of the Sierra Club-Catoctin Group. "There's been no motion or vote on it," Becker said. "We're deeply disturbed by the decision, but being a grass-roots group, we have limited resources. There are a lot of other things affecting Maryland right now."

Pub Date: 10/06/99

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