Reuwer loses bid to rezone Route 99 site

He fails to convince board it made error in deciding land use

`It doesn't belong there'

Residents pleased panel won't allow gas station on parcel

October 02, 2001|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr. lost his bid last night to rezone a parcel at Route 99 and Marriottsville Road for commercial development, a relief for neighbors who feared a domino effect of industry heading westward from the site.

The Howard County Zoning Board, made up of the five County Council members, didn't even need to take a vote on the request because Reuwer had not convinced a majority of the panel that it had acted in error when it originally zoned the site.

The parcel in question isn't large - just over 2 acres - but it attracted intense attention from residents who do not want gas stations, office buildings and stores along Route 99.

"Change begets change," said Jack Butler, a Marriottsville resident who lives less than a mile from the site. "We wanted to draw a line, and I'm very happy the council ruled the way they did."

Reuwer, who had argued that the land is unfit for homes because it sits at a busy intersection, said last night that he had no alternative plan in the wings. Current zoning allows three houses on the site.

"I don't know what we [will] do with it," he said. "We'll just have to come up with something."

To win a rezoning request, a land owner must prove either that the zoning was a mistake or that the character of the surrounding neighborhood has changed.

Reuwer said that both applied. He told board members in July that the intersection isn't what it used to be.

"It's high traffic volume, high noise and high dust," he said then. "I don't want to see three ticky-tacky, unsightly houses there."

He also contended that the site is eligible for county water and sewer service - unlike nearly all other land in the county zoned Rural Conservation (RC).

No one on the board thought the area had changed sufficiently to warrant rezoning. Only two members, Democrats Guy J. Guzzone and C. Vernon Gray, agreed with Reuwer that a mistake had been made.

The other three were not convinced that the land sits within the water and sewer line. And if it's inside the service area, perhaps it shouldn't be, one member suggested.

"If it was in the Planned Service Area, it probably was a mistake," said Allan H. Kittleman, a western Howard Republican.

Although the panel was left without the need to vote on the rezoning issue, Guzzone clarified to the board that he was not in favor of altering the parcel.

"I don't believe that we should be changing any RC to a higher zone," he said.

Reuwer testified in July that he was thinking about building a gas station on the site. He had earlier offered residents a deal, promising to build a "Colonial mansion-style" office building there if they supported his rezoning request. But they turned him down, and he changed his plans.

Neighbors particularly disliked the idea of a gas station, which they thought would further congest the busy roads.

"The nature of a gas station is that it has to have a lot of volume in order to be successful," said Lee Hupfer, a West Friendship resident whose daughter travels through the intersection every day. "It doesn't belong there."

More than a dozen residents turned out for the meeting last night, many certain that the vote would go against them. They were pleasantly surprised.

"It's just good that the developers take a step back once in a while," Butler said.

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