Appeal courts denies standing to opponents of Bethel church

May 15, 2002|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

The state's second-highest court has reversed itself over a citizens' group petition opposing plans by Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church to build a 3,000-seat sanctuary in rural Granite.

In March, the Court of Special Appeals said a county Circuit Court judge erred in dismissing an appeal filed by the Greater Patapsco Valley Association. The group had challenged the county zoning commissioner's decision to reopen a hearing on how the new church would affect traffic.

Now, the appeals court has ruled that the citizens' group does not have standing to appeal the Circuit Court decision.

The ruling, released Monday, came after the church filed a motion for reconsideration in the matter.

Neither the church nor neighbors opposed to the $10 million building planned for Old Court Road expect the ruling to have a major effect on the project. Both sides have challenged the county Board of Appeal's approval of the project in Circuit Court. Those appeals are pending.

Bethel attorney Robert A. Hoffman said he was pleased with the ruling.

"I'm happy about it," Hoffman said. "But we have the real issues going on in Circuit Court."

The attorney for the citizens' group could not be reached for comment.

Granite residents have complained that the church will add as many as 1,100 cars to area roads on Sunday afternoons.

Bethel has been on a three-year quest to build on the 255-acre site. The church, with a congregation of 11,000, says it has outgrown its city building, though it will keep a presence in Baltimore.

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