Parole mixed-use plan clears court hurdle

Appeals judges void rejection by county

January 18, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

The county's rejection of a development application for an 18-acre site in the Parole area has been overturned by Maryland's Court of Special Appeals, removing a hurdle for the mixed commercial, residential and recreational project.

In a 15-page decision filed yesterday, the state's second-highest court ruled that the county Circuit Court erred in affirming the county Board of Appeals' rejection of the application from developers Annapolis Route 2 LLC and Wharton Annapolis.

"It's wonderful news," said Alan J. Hyatt, attorney for the developers. "It confirmed our interpretation of the county code with respect to mixed-use development within the Parole Town Center. Now, if my clients want to proceed, their application has to be processed."

The application had been rejected by the county's Department of Planning and Code Enforcement and the Board of Appeals on grounds that the parcel was "ineligible for mixed-use development."

Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk, an Annapolis Democrat who made land issues part of her 1998 election campaign, said yesterday that although the proposal must now be reviewed, "it can still be rejected."

"The decision says they can apply for mixed-use, but it also gives [the county] an opportunity to make decisions in the best interest of the community," she said.

The court said its decision does not require the county to approve the development application, "only to consider its substance."

In April 1998, the developers filed a proposal with Planning and Code Enforcement seeking approval of a mixed-use development project under the Parole Town Center Growth Management Area incentive plan, which was established in 1990 by a county code.

The incentive program's stated purpose is to achieve a "mixture of desirable land uses, quality design and public amenities that create a sense of a unified community and enhanced quality of life" in the Parole area.

The project, which would be built on undeveloped land at the end of Admiral Cochran Drive, was to consist of 72,000 square feet of office space, a 250-unit assisted-living facility and a 1.1-acre public park and transit stop facility.

The planning department rejected the application, reasoning that the property was ineligible for mixed-use development under the incentive program and that the property, which is zoned as residential, must be rezoned before being reviewed or approved for commercial uses.

The developers contend that despite the residential zoning, the incentive program allows for mixed-use development throughout the management area.

In April, the Circuit Court agreed with a Board of Appeals position that the incentive program was implemented by the county to encourage developers to provide more residential uses.

If the development was allowed, the court said, "the developer would receive the benefit of the incentive programs while depleting the small residential supply within the Management Area."

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