Rivals of effort to rezone testify

Residents argue farmland case before Circuit Court judge

July 26, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

A Freedom-area citizens group and a Sykesville resident who oppose the county's decision to rezone 145 acres of South Carroll farmland appeared in court yesterday to argue their case.

Carroll County Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns listened to Freedom Area Citizens' Council and Douglas M. Ilioff of Sykesville criticize the county commissioners' rezoning of the Rash family farm from agriculture to residential use. The Rash family plans to develop the property into an upscale golf-course community with about 50 homes.

Burns made no decision yesterday, and did not say when he expects to. Under state law, no limit is set on the time he can take to consider the appeal.

No new evidence was presented during the one-hour court proceeding. Burns heard oral arguments from both sides and will review the record of the county's decision.

Ilioff and Nimrod Davis, acting chairman of the Freedom Area group, fear the rezoning -- Carroll's largest in nearly 30 years -- will undermine the county's agricultural preservation program and open the door to further development of South Carroll, the county's most populous area.

In August, Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier voted in favor of the Rash family. They found the family had proved a change in the character of their neighborhood and a mistake in the zoning, the two standards for rezoning a property.

The Rash property was zoned for agriculture in 1965, and again in 1978, when the county reviewed its agricultural properties.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge voted against the request, arguing the Rashes failed on both criteria. The changes in the neighborhood, including a swell in traffic and population, were anticipated in the county's master plan, she said. No mistake was made in zoning, she said.

Her written dissent echoed the concerns voiced by some of Maryland's most powerful environmental groups, the state planning office and Gov. Parris N. Glendening and served as the basis for the residents' appeal.

The state rarely involves itself in local land-use issues, but Glendening has publicly criticized the Rash rezoning several times, saying it "potentially sets the stage for more sprawl."

If the rezoning decision survives the court battle, one of the last vestiges of agriculture in the highly developed area could soon become a housing subdivision. The Rash family, brothers Claude, 61, Glenn, 68, and Edwin, 73 -- retained Charles D. Hollman to represent them in the appeal.

The opponents have few resources and must rely on their own legal knowledge. Ilioff's wife, attorney Mary Oldewurtel, is representing the group.

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