Zoning variance is denied for Manhattan Beach parcel

Developer sought to build house 6 feet wider than permitted on merged lot

April 17, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

A county hearing officer has denied a zoning variance sought by a Crownsville developer to build a house wider than allowed on a plot of waterfront land in Severna Park's Manhattan Beach - a victory for residents fighting the 6-foot difference.

Administrative hearing officer Stephen M. LeGendre ruled that the plot at 759 Dividing Road is capable of being developed within the code.

Severn Associates, headed by Steve Washington, wanted to tear down an existing house and build another that is 26 feet wide - 6 feet wider than permitted - and contended that a smaller house would be unattractive and nonfunctional.

"To the extent there is a hardship, I believe it is self-created," LeGendre wrote. "There would appear to be opportunities for renovation far less drastic than the proposed demolition and reconstruction."

Severn Associates has 30 days to file a notice of appeal with the County Board of Appeals. Washington said yesterday that he had not read the decision and would defer comment.

The plot of land is adjacent to another, and for years the pair had been used as a single merged lot with only one house. Severn Associates bought the entire parcel for $312,000 in February 2000. The firm has obtained a building permit for the vacant portion.

Thomas McGrath Jr. lives next door to the land and, fearing overdevelopment of the neighborhood and a resulting decrease in property values, has led the fight. The area was developed in the 1920s, with seasonal waterfront homes on narrow lots.

McGrath maintains that the two lots should remain as one merged lot, and have only one house constructed there."[Washington] has basically constructed a scenario where, if he wants to use 1920 plats, he has to build small 1920 cottages," McGrath said.

In the decision, LeGendre commented on the residents' concerns that the variance will change the character of the area, and concluded that the waterfront area is congested and the variance would "exacerbate the situation."

To fight construction on the lot where Washington secured a building permit for a 21-by-40-foot, two-story home, McGrath has appealed the county's decision that the house would not impair the air, light and view of adjacent properties owners. The Board of Appeals has not ruled on the appeal.

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