Zoning official rejects plans for church in Owings Mills

February 07, 2003|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's deputy zoning commissioner ruled yesterday that Apostolic Truth Tabernacle's proposed sanctuary and counseling, day-care and school buildings would be incompatible with the Owings Mills neighborhood where they would be built.

The church, founded by the Rev. Thomas Cobb in 1980, bought a house and 8.6-acre lot in the McDonogh-Field neighborhood in 2001 in hopes of building a sanctuary to replace one in Hampden that was destroyed in a 1999 fire.

Neighbors, however, mounted a vigorous opposition, saying the complex of buildings would disrupt the neighborhood and would bring too much traffic.

Deputy Zoning Commissioner Timothy M. Kotroko noted in his denial that the buildings would be four or five times larger than the surrounding homes and that the two parking lots, totaling 100 spaces, would not be screened from nearby residences.

"The petitioner's plans are very ambitious," Kotroko wrote. "Perhaps a smaller church facility and smaller parking lot could be made to be compatible with the surrounding residential premises. However the ... plan before me is excessive and, therefore, not compatible."

The church, affiliated with the United Pentecostal International Church, bought the land - and the home where Cobb and his family live - for $320,000, according to state assessment records. The congregation planned to construct a sanctuary and three other buildings in four phases over a 20-year period.

Cobb said he had not reviewed the decision and declined to comment last night.

Phyllis B. Brotman, president of the McDonogh-Field Association, said her group understands the need for local houses of worship and believes discrimination against nontraditional sects is immoral. But this plan, she said, is incompatible with the neighborhood.

"We're all going to have champagne tonight," she said.

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