Loyola calls on court to back retreat plan

Parkton group opposes lodge, two dormitories

February 08, 2007|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,sun reporter

Arguing that a retreat center proposed by Loyola College would have little effect on its rural northern Baltimore County neighbors, lawyers for the college asked the Court of Special Appeals yesterday to uphold county approval of the project.

"Because this use has such a light impact, it ought to be approved," James A. Dunbar, one of Loyola College's lawyers, argued yesterday before a panel of three appellate judges in Annapolis.

But some Parkton-area residents remain opposed to the college's plans to build a lodge and two dormitories on a 10-acre portion of a 53-acre property in Parkton.

They say the location would create more traffic, noise, well problems and disruption to their rural way of life than it would elsewhere in the area.

"You've got to look at whether there's no greater adverse impact at the site than elsewhere in the zone," G. Macy Nelson, the lawyer for the residents, told the judges yesterday.

Macy also argued that that county's Board of Appeals and Zoning Commissioner have made legal errors in giving approval to Loyola, which could affect how other development proposals are approved in Baltimore County.

Baltimore County's People's Counsel Peter Max Zimmerman -- whose job is to weigh in when he thinks a proposal runs afoul of the county's master plan -- has interceded in the case, agreeing that county officials erred in approving the project and saying that the college incorrectly calculated the center's water use, which conflicts with the county's water and sewage plan.

In 2004, a county zoning commissioner granted a special exception to zoning regulations, ruling that Loyola could build its retreat center at York and Stablersville roads. A year later, the county's Board of Appeals upheld that decision.

A group called Citizens Against Loyola's Multi-use center -- or CALM -- appealed. And in May, a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge sided with Zimmerman and the residents opposed to the center, sending the case back to the county's Board of Appeals.

Loyola appealed the ruling by Circuit Court Judge Ruth A. Jakubowski to the Court of Special Appeals, Maryland's second-highest court. Zimmerman and Nelson filed cross-appeals.

Loyola's lawyers said that the law requires that the college show that the retreat center would have less of a negative effect on neighbors than would a college -- which is allowed in the area by special exception. And they said that they correctly calculated the center's water use, saying that they weren't required to ask that the county's water plan be amended because the project hadn't yet been approved.

They also argued that they were correctly defining "neighborhood" to mean the immediate area.

"Just because it's a rural area doesn't mean you go all the way to Harford County," Dunbar said.

But Zimmerman and Nelson said that in northern Baltimore county, a neighborhood is a relatively large area.

Mark L. Kelly, a spokesman for Loyola, said yesterday, "We remain committed to the project."

He said the plan, in its first phase, calls for building a 16,000-square-foot center, with meeting rooms, a chapel, and dining room and kitchen and two dormitory buildings each accommodating 20 overnight guests.

After 10 years, the college plans to build up to three more dormitories, each accommodating about 20 overnight guests, giving the college the capacity to host a total of 100 overnight guests at the retreat center, Kelly said.

A decision by the Court of Special Appeals is not expected for at least several weeks.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

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