Panel acted in time to block townhouse project, judge rules

Historic District Commission's `no' vote fulfilled the law, he says

November 11, 1999|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Ruling against a developer trying to build 27 townhouses in Ellicott City's Historic District, a Howard Circuit Court judge said this week that a county commission acted in time to block the proposed project.

Developer Michael Pfau was seeking to build the homes on Fels Lane and applied for a permit before the county's Historic District Commission last year. The commission voted against Pfau's plans Nov. 5, but it did not submit a written denial until Dec. 30 -- nine days after the 45-day deadline.

Pfau's lawyer, Thomas M. Meachum, argued before Judge James B. Dudley in July that the commission did not "act" before the 45-day deadline when it issued its order.

County lawyers argued that the commission's vote fulfilled the def-inition of "to act" and said that a third commission member, the minimum necessary to enforce the decision, signed the order on the final day possible.

In his decision released Tuesday, Dudley ruled that the vote fulfilled the definition of "to act" because reversing the decision would amount to "a substitution of form over substance. That would be contrary to the purpose of historic district zoning, contrary to the public interest and would be illogical, unreasonable and contrary to common sense. "

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