Builder's appeal rejected in Carroll

254-unit rental complex was planned in Eldersburg

October 31, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Board of Zoning Appeals has affirmed the planning commission's decision to deny a site plan for a 254-unit rental complex in Eldersburg by a 4-to-1 vote.

The vote Friday came after an hour of spirited debate on the townhouse subdivision that Carrolltowne Development Partnership has attempted to build on 20 acres near Kali Drive and Ridge Road for nine years.

The Carroll County Planning and Zoning 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, instead pursuing the possibility of commercial uses for the parcel. When the county removed the business zoning from the land, the developer revived the residential plan and brought it to the planning commission in August -- five years after the judge's decision.

"The judge ordered the planning commission to approve the site plan," said David Roush, the zoning board member who cast the dissenting vote. "They have never done that. We have to live with that now. The order from the judge was uncontested."

But Roberta Windham, zoning board member, argued that much has changed since the judge's 1999 ruling and she called the developer's delay incongruous.

"He had the apple in his grasp and didn't go ahead," Windham said.

The commission pointed to crowded schools and roads and an inadequate water supply when it denied the plan more than two months ago.

Benjamin Rosenberg, an attorney for the developer, filed a lawsuit Oct. 22, accusing the commission of "constructive civil contempt" and asked that commission members, who include County Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, be jailed for refusing to approve the site plan.

"The only legal remedy that exists when a party refuses to comply with a judge's order is to hold them in contempt," Rosenberg said. "Incarceration is not a tactic. It is a requirement of law. We are asking for enforcement of the judge's final order."

Rosenberg criticized the county commissioners for issuing a news release on the lawsuit while the zoning board was deliberating on the case.

"We are simply asking that the planning commission be held in contempt until it complies," he said. "The judge's original order is still final and binding."

Jacob Yingling, appeals board chairman, decried the developer's use of "intimidation tactics," which, he said, did not influence his decision.

"If you are going to lock up the planning commission, please include the chairman of this board," Yingling said. "No board should ever be intimidated. I resent it."

A judge must schedule a hearing to rule on the contempt suit. Rosenberg denounced the county's "delay tactics," adding that officials cannot cite 2004 criteria to deny the building plan.

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