Development opponents lose appeal for petition

Balto. County rejects bid for more time by foes of Holly Neck proposal

October 01, 2003|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Opponents of an upscale housing development planned for Holly Neck peninsula suffered a major setback when their appeal to extend their petition drive was rejected by Baltimore County officials.

"Where do we go from here?" asked Ronald Belbot, a leader of the Holly Neck Conservation Association, which has worked against the plan for more than a dozen $1 million mansions and other expensive homes in the eastern county community that sits on Middle River and the Chesapeake Bay.

The group opposes the project because it believes a powerful developer has received favorable treatment from the county through spot zoning.

The group also is worried about the development's environmental impact on local waterways.

"We do know a couple of things, though, and they are we will watch with much diligence that this kind of favored zoning does not go into other areas of the county and we will be at every step of the Holly Neck developmental process," said Belbot.

Damian O'Doherty, a spokesman for County Executive James T. Smith Jr., said a letter has been mailed, bearing Smith's signature, explaining the county's position on the appeal.

The association sent a letter to Smith appealing for an extension of the Sept. 22 deadline to gather 9,313 signatures. Ultimately, they would have needed 27,939 signatures to place the issue on the ballot for voter referendum in next year's election.

The association, Belbot said, was about 1,500 signatures short of the required number.

The group based its appeal on the disruption caused by Tropical Storm Isabel, which caused extensive damage along the county's 175-mile-long shoreline -- though Belbot said Holly Neck was spared major residential property damage.

The power outages, telephone disruptions and other problems linked to the disaster, Belbot said in his letter to Smith, prevented his association from acquiring the needed signatures.

O'Doherty said Monday that when Smith received the Holly Neck group's letter, the association's appeal was quickly sent to the county attorney for an opinion.

"Basically, the executive was told that he has no authority to delay or extend any timeline laid out in state law," O'Doherty said.

Belbot acknowledged that a member of Smith's staff told Developer Leonard P. Berger said he will submit his development plan for Holly Neck to the county within the next two weeks.

"I had proposed lowering the number of homes from 110 to 90, but members of the association did not agree with some conditions I would have liked in return, so we are back to 110," Berger said.

Berger said some residents of Holly Neck support his high-end vision for the peninsula.

"And they are having input every step of the way," Berger said.

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