Opponents likely to continue Balto. Co. farm stand fight

Appeals board gives preliminary approval after 2-year battle

November 09, 2010|Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun

Opponents of a northern Baltimore County farmer's plan to build what could be the county's largest roadside stand say they are likely to continue their more than two-year fight against the project, which has won preliminary zoning approval.

Michael McCann, lawyer for neighbors of Springfield Farm on Yeoho Road in Sparks, said Tuesday that "my sense is that we're going to appeal," but he said he and his clients would have to see the Board of Appeals' written opinion before making that decision.

The three-member board approved the proposal for a three-level barn at a Sept. 28 meeting, according to minutes from the session. The panel's formal, written decision is not due until this month, officials said. Once that opinion is issued, opponents would have 30 days to appeal to Circuit Court.

Springfield Farm owner David Smith said he understands that the board has other things to do, but "it's frustrating it takes so long to get it reduced to writing."

The two-page notes on the board's deliberations show that the panel rejected opponents' contention that the 6,000-square-foot barn would create a traffic hazard and found that the proposal meets the zoning code's definition of a "farmer's roadside stand."

The board agreed with a condition set by the zoning commissioner — who approved the project two years ago — that the stand not operate for more than 12 hours a day, and underscored the legal requirement that the farm produce at least half the products sold at the stand. The minutes note that Smith proposed to have the stand open only from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Smith has been pursuing the $250,000 project through county agencies for four years in the face of opposition from about a dozen neighbors, who say the stand would bring more traffic than the rural road was built to carry and that the barn would not be a farmer's stand at all, but a conventional retail store.

County zoning law does not establish size limits for a "farmer's roadside stand," but it does set a 35-foot road setback minimum and a 50-percent rule on products sold at the stand.

Smith, whose farm offers poultry, eggs, lamb, rabbit, pork and dairy products, has for years been selling goods out of his garage on the retail side of the business, and supplying restaurants and markets on the wholesale side. He has acknowledged that some of his products are produced elsewhere and said he would continue to offer these in the new stand.

Smith farms 67 acres along Yeoho Road, leases about 23 acres next door and co-owns 150 acres of farmland in Cecil County.

Sam Nitzberg, an opponent of the project who lives on Yeoho Road, said the details of the written opinion will determine whether an appeal would be worthwhile. "Until we see it, we just don't know."

Smith said he and his family are "pretty much up to our eyeballs" preparing for the holiday rush, but are hoping for good news. In a few weeks, he said, we will know if "we get a nice Christmas present if they decide not to appeal or a bucket of coal if they do."

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

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