Group files suit to halt Beth Tfiloh

Glyndon residents oppose synagogue's expansion

February 26, 2002|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

The Glyndon Community Association has filed suit seeking a court order that would block Beth Tfiloh's plans for a 1,500-seat synagogue in the historic village.

The suit, filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court, asks that a judge review a Board of Appeals decision granting preliminary approval for the synagogue in the 400 block of Central Ave.

Gary R. Jones, a lawyer for the community association, acknowledged that the board's decision is a preliminary step in the review process for Beth Tfiloh's plans, but said the community wants a judge to review it.

Jones said that because county zoning does not automatically permit a synagogue at the site, Beth Tfiloh must obtain a special exception from Zoning Commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt. "There are still a number of other steps they have to take," he said.

G. Scott Barhight, a lawyer for Beth Tfiloh, said the congregation knows it faces opposition from the community. "We're not surprised by their [court] appeal," he said.

Barhight said the congregation, which bought the 43-acre site in 1998, has been operating a preschool and holding services in a 400-seat chapel there for at least the past year.

Beth Tfiloh, a 1,300-family synagogue based in Pikesville, will continue to hold services at its original home on Old Court Road, Barhight said. But the congregation hopes to win approval for a synagogue, a two-story school and new athletic fields in Glyndon to meet the needs of the county's growing Jewish community, he said.

Residents say they welcome Beth Tfiloh, but are concerned about the size of the project. "We'd like them to recognize they're moving into a residential neighborhood and not just a geographic region," said John A. Morris, president of the Glyndon Community Association.

Beth Tfiloh applied to the Board of Appeals last year for an exemption from the county's development review process, which requires public input.

In granting the exemption, the appeals board ruled Feb. 8 that county codes appear to allow synagogues in the zone in question and that public input is not necessary.

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