Oella residents appeal decision on historic mill

Plan for apartments goes to circuit court

January 31, 2003|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Opponents of a plan to convert historic Oella Mill into luxury apartments have carried their struggle to the Baltimore County Circuit Court, a step that is likely to delay for months a final decision on whether the project should be built.

Residents of Oella, a small town across the Patapsco River near Ellicott City, fear that their community's narrow, winding roads will not be able to handle the additional traffic they expect from the 175 apartment units.

The Baltimore County Board of Appeals upheld a zoning commissioner's decision in July to allow Forest City Residential Group, a Cleveland developer, to build the apartments in the almost 200-year-old mill. Rents would range up to $3,000 a month.

Limits on project sought

Individual residents and the Greater Oella Community Association appealed the board's ruling to the Circuit Court, believing that fewer apartments or combined retail and office space would be a better choice.

"The mill as it is a very quaint historical building containing craft people, artists, antique shops," said Lydia Temoshok, president of the Greater Oella Community Association.

"It's the center of our community, and we love it that way," Temoshok said.

A date for a hearing in the case has not been set. Lawyers for Forest City have filed motions to expedite the hearing date.

"We believe it's the right project, and we'd like to get it started," said Jon Wallenmeyer, vice president of Forest City.

Retail or office suggestions are "going to produce a lot more traffic" than the proposed residential project, he said. And building fewer apartments would result in the same problem.

"Typically, when you have fewer apartments, they're bigger - you have more bedrooms," Wallenmeyer said.

More bedrooms require more residents who will need to drive their cars in the area, he said.

The attorney for the residents says he sees no reason to rush to a Circuit Court hearing.

"The [Board of Appeals] opinion is 53 pages long. There were five days of hearings," said John V. Murphy. "That's not something you do in a hurry."

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