Bestgate land still could be rezoned

Lawyer says local ruling would trump appeals court

Review to follow elections

July 23, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Despite a recent court decision prohibiting commercial development at a property along bustling Bestgate Road, a commercial and residential village could still rise up on the vacant lot near Annapolis.

Attorneys with the Anne Arundel County Law Office said yesterday that any local decision to rezone the property would supersede last week's Court of Appeals ruling. County officials are set to consider zoning amendments for properties within the greater Annapolis area after the general election Nov. 5.

"Developers could ask for - and get - mixed-use zoning in the near future," David A. Plymyer, deputy county attorney, said yesterday.

FOR THE RECORD - Due to an editing error, an article on a proposed development off Bestgate Road had the incorrect spelling for two names. They are Don Yeskey, president of the Generals Highway Council of Civic Associations, and developers E. Steuart and Frank Chaney. The Sun regrets the error.

Plymyer said comprehensive rezoning, a process that takes place once a decade, could allow Sturbridge Homes of Annapolis and Erwin L. Greenberg & Associates of Baltimore "another bite at the apple."

Last month, Michael DeStefano, president of Sturbridge Homes, said the development team probably would build houses on the 54-acre site after county officials decided not to introduce rezoning maps for the Annapolis area, including the Bestgate Road site, until after elections. At the time, DeStefano said financial constraints prohibited more delays.

"In my mind, we are making the commitment to go residential," he said last month, referring to an alternate plan to build pricey townhouses and single-family houses instead of a mixed commercial and residential development.

Neither DeStefano or John S. Pantelides of Greenberg & Associates could be reached for comment yesterday. But in recent months they had asked County Council members to give them the zoning to build 120,000 square feet of retail space, 65,000 square feet of office space and 224 condominiums.

County Executive Janet S. Owens, a Democrat from Millersville who is running unopposed in the primary set for Sept. 10, has stated publicly that she opposes the mixed-use plan.

And though some residents of the Bestgate Road area have shown strong support for the concept, members of the Generals Highway Council of Civic Associations, an umbrella group that represents 25 communities, have launched a campaign to keep the project 100 percent residential.

Opponents argue that commercial development would create traffic headaches on Bestgate Road and divert much-needed investment from Parole, a once-thriving retail corridor that is the focus of an ambitious economic revitalization plan. County officials have said they intend to introduce zoning legislation for the Parole and Annapolis areas together to ensure cohesiveness.

Yesterday, Don Pesky, president of the Generals Highway group, said that though members were pleased with the Court of Appeals ruling, which focused on a different group of developers, they will continue to monitor the development site and lobby council members.

"John Pantelides claims to have four [members out of seven on] the County Council to support a zoning amendment, so we are lobbying the County Council as well," Pesky said. "There is nothing to be done other than lobby the council."

The court ruling, released Thursday, was a victory for the county, which had opposed the commercial rezoning sought by the previous developers, E. Stuart Chancy and his cousin Frank Chancy. The Chancys wanted to build a project, to be called Annapolis Market Place, which would have included a mix of businesses and homes.

In 1999, the county Board of Appeals allowed rezoning to mixed-use of the 33 acres off Bestgate Road, but courts overturned that decision.

The appeals court, however, upheld the county's and the community group's position that the law requires public facilities to be adequate at the rezoning stage, noting that it is not enough for developers to pledge to meet requirements for adequate schools, roads and fire suppression at the time of a rezoning request.

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