About 100 residents packed a hearing yesterday and cheered when the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission denied a site plan for a 254-unit apartment complex in Eldersburg.
County Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, who serves on the planning board, said crowded schools and roads and an inadequate water supply prompted the decision. She added that the strong turnout of those opposed to the complex signaled support for the commissioners' efforts to control growth.
"The most important factor is that there are no adequate facilities in this area," she said. "An apartment building with this density has never been good for Carroll County."
For more than a decade, Carrolltowne Development Partnership has attempted to build the rental units on a 20-acre parcel near Kali Drive and Ridge Road.
"The neighbors have been opposed to this project from Day One," said Benjamin Rosenberg, attorney for the developer.
Neighbors contend that the increased traffic and demand for services would prove a burden in the county's most populated area.
"It is not who is coming to these homes, but the resources they will use," said Nancy Smith of Eldersburg.
Kathleen O'Toole of Eldersburg said, "We have portables at every school and no police. Now they are talking about adding 500 more cars."
The planning commission refused to approve the site plan in 1995 and again a year later, but the Circuit Court for Carroll County reversed those decisions and ordered the panel to approve the development. The county commissioners did not appeal the judge's ruling and the developer did not move forward with the project.
In the ensuing year, the county attempted to rezone the parcel for commercial use. The developer was pursuing commercial interests when the zoning proposal failed. Those rezoning efforts "changed the landscape on us" and their failure forced the developer to revive the original housing plan, said Rosenberg.
"That [court] order must be implemented," Rosenberg said yesterday.
But Robin L. Kriete, planning commission member, said her understanding of the court ruling was that the clock started ticking from the time of the judge's decision. County policy requires developers to put plans into effect within 18 months or go back to the drawing board.
"The 18 months started from the date of the judge's order," said Kriete, who made the motion to deny the site plan.
Terri A. Jones, attorney for Carroll County, said the original plan is void and the developer must resubmit an updated version.
"The county can't penalize us with new requirements enacted after 1995," Rosenberg said. "If we were starting from a clean slate, we could say there are merits on both sides of this issue. But that is not the case."
A new plan would most likely meet the same rejection, said Gouge.
The proposed development "totally ignores every regulation we have in place to protect the citizens' quality of life," Gouge said. "We cannot undo the work of the last year and a half."
The county commissioners implemented stricter controls on development before a yearlong growth freeze expired in June.
The decision yesterday will likely lead to another lawsuit, Gouge said.
Residents resolved to continue efforts to stymie the project.
"This is not the end of it," said Andrea Kowaleski of Eldersburg. "They are trying to take away our resources and they are putting the burden for this development on the county."