Builder is now party to lawsuit

Development foes object to ruling in favor of Mangione

August 09, 2006|BY A SUN REPORTER

A court decision allowing the owner and developer of Turf Valley to be part of a long-standing case involving the western Howard County project underscores how each party is prepared to fight every point of the dispute.

The most recent tussle gave Mangione Family Enterprises the right to intervene in a lawsuit by nearby residents against the county Planning Board over what they consider runaway development aided by illegal zoning decisions.

Though technical in nature, last week's court ruling makes the developer of the 800-plus-acre project an official party to the case, over the objections of the residents, who had argued that their dispute is with the Planning Board.

The case was provoked by the Planning Board's approval in March of Mangione's fourth comprehensive sketch plan, which expanded Turf Valley to about 808 acres by adding 119.7 acres.

That authorized another 239 housing units to be constructed, for a total of 1,618, permitted the realignment of Resort Road through the development and permanently fixed the location of nine golf course holes.

The board's action is being challenged on several fronts, including a lawsuit filed by six county residents, all of whom reside in or near Turf Valley. They seek a temporary injunction to prevent further development in Turf Valley until the case is resolved.

The lawsuit is technically against the Planning Board and the county, but Sang W. Oh, an attorney with Richard B. Talkin's firm, which is representing the developer, sought to intervene in the case, arguing that the court's decisions could have severe ramifications for his client. "I absolutely feel that the case can't go forward without intervention," Oh told the court. "Our harm is the greatest harm."

Attorney Paul F. Kendall, one of those who filed the lawsuit, opposed intervention, arguing that Mangione lacked "legal standing" because the suit is a challenge to the Planning Board's authority and, in a broader sense, the county's zoning regulations.

The developer, Kendall argued, does not "have an interest at this point," although he acknowledged that Mangione could be affected by the outcome of the case. What is before the court, he said, "is the narrow issue of the Planning Board exceeding [its] authority."

Judge Lenore R. Gelfman replied, "It's not so narrow because it has ramifications. That's what is so troubling. ... The developer is obviously impacted either directly or indirectly."

Lynn Robeson, an attorney from the Office of Law and representing the county, said the county regards Mangione as a "necessary" party to the case.

The judge finally granted the motion to allow the developer to intervene in the case.

The opponents to the expansion of Turf Valley are not relying exclusively on the court. They have asked the Planning Board to reconsider the case as well as filed for a review before the Board of Appeals.

Turf Valley is the only development in the county that is zoned "public golf course community." It has two 18-hole golf courses, a hotel and resort, 130 homes and 26 villas. The expansion would add hundreds of homes and commercial and retail outlets.

The development has been the subject of countless hearings and debate over the past two years -- first over Mangione's request to increase density, or the number of units per acre, which was opposed by the Planning Board and ultimately withdrawn; and then over the sketch plan, which was approved.

Opponents have raised a variety of issues: traffic congestion, the fear of environmental contamination, school overcrowding, the number of housing units, building heights, public safety and the county's regulatory process, which they claim is tilted toward developers.

"This is government run amok," Frank Martin, the chief spokesman for the opposition and one of the people who filed the lawsuit, said recently. "They are making interpretations that do not honor the law. There is no one being held accountable."

Louis Mangione, vice president of the Mangione Family Enterprises, has said the opponents seem intent on scuttling the entire project.

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