Growth-control exemption is denied by County Council

Woman sought to subdivide and sell a half-acre lot


April 08, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

An Elkridge woman will not be able to subdivide and sell one lot of her Montgomery Road property, the Howard County Council decided last night.

"In this case, I just don't believe all her options have been exhausted," said Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Elkridge Republican.

Marjorie Gonce, who will turn 80 this year, petitioned the council to grant her an exemption to county growth controls, which dictate the number of homes that can be built each year.

Under current restrictions, she would have to wait until 2009 to subdivide about a half-acre of her 5-acre tract. The exemption would have set a precedent as the first granted under new regulations restricting "infill development" -- new construction in existing neighborhoods.

When they passed legislation last year, council members left in a provision to allow property owners experiencing economic hardship to petition the council for a one-lot exemption.

At last month's public hearing on various bills before the council, Gonce detailed a life lived free of debt.

Gonce and her husband raised nine children in a home they built themselves, without a mortgage, because her husband said "he couldn't sleep at night if he owed anybody anything," she said.

Gonce said she hoped to use the proceeds from sale of the property for travel and to pay for grandchildren's college expenses.

"Don't do me any favors. Just be fair," she told the council.

After the public hearing, three of the five councilmen said Gonce had other avenues available to get money, including home loans.

To prove financial hardship, one must "essentially, first off, demonstrate that you need the money. Second off, demonstrate that you have no mechanism to get the money," said Councilman Guy Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat.

"What we've created is the opportunity to leapfrog the normal process," he said. "I'm not sure that reaches the threshold we created."

"We don't expect to see many of these," Merdon said last night of hardship appeals.

Before the infill restrictions were approved, many county residents complained about what they felt was rampant abuse of the one-lot exemption. Some felt it resulted in poorly planned developments and net increases in students and traffic for already-crowded schools and roads.

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