Board balks at rezoning

Nearby residents opposed new designation for medical complex

May 28, 2006|BY A SUN REPORTER

When a new zoning classification was enacted two years ago to allow low-impact commercial offices that would also serve as buffers to residential neighborhoods from more intense retail and businesses, Linda A. Dombrowski, a member of the Planning Board, characterized it as a "great zone."

Such a designation, she said, would be "very appropriate for the west," the region of the county where preservation of open-space efforts are the strongest.

But in the first attempt to use the Office Transition zoning, though, a proposed property met with a quick thumbs-down from the Planning Board.

Dr. Rajendar M. Saini sought the rezoning for about 3 acres to construct a modest 5,000- square-foot dental and medical complex and garage. The property fronts Route 97, across the street from Glenwood Middle School.

But he faced unwavering opposition from nearby residents and a tepid Department of Planning and Zoning, which urged denial but with the possibility of approval in the future.

The Planning Board unanimously rejected the application Thursday night.

Attorney Richard B. Talkin, who represented Saini, said, "The OT is designed specifically for something like this." He said that the property was ill-suited for residential use because it is near heavily traveled Route 97 and that his client's project would resemble a home and would not alter the neighborhood's character.

Residents of the Glenwood Springs subdivision, though, were adamantly opposed.

"This is a very poor use of [the] new zoning," said resident Robert Beaver. "We don't need a transition. ... The property is zoned residential, and we think that's what it should be."

He said commercial development would usher in unwanted "nuisances," such as traffic, noise, evening lights and heavy trash removal.

Another resident, Matt Dillon, whose home is 25 to 30 yards from the southerly edge of Saini's property, said, "Put yourself in my position. ... It's literally a stone's throw away. Would you want that in your backyard?"

The Department of Planning and Zoning said the proposal met county regulations, but it recommended rejection because of questions about the size of the proposed building and garage and because the state Department of Transportation has raised questions about whether requirements for improvements providing access and acceleration and deceleration lanes to Route 97 could be met.

Talkin said his client would work with the state to resolve those issues.

The board voted, 4-0, however, to deny the rezoning.

Dombrowski, an advocate of the OT zone, said the zoning "has a lot to offer, but in this case, it's not the answer."

Board member Gary Rosenbaum said, "To me, the most appropriate use is the continuance of residential." He said that while the property technically meets regulations, "there's no compelling reason to make the change."

The board's action is a recommendation only. The application now goes before the Zoning Board.

The board also granted variances to permit construction of 16 attached homes in a section of Maple Lawn, the luxury planned community near Fulton.

Unlike other homes in Maple Lawn, where garages are restricted to the rear, these homes will have garages in the front and slightly shorter setbacks because of topography.

The units will be built by McLean, Va.-based Miller and Smith Homes Inc., one of the largest builders in the Baltimore-Washington region. The homes are expected to begin in the $700,000s.

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