Appeal against shopping center at Turf Valley denied

Board rules against Marc Norman in latest effort to stop development

February 03, 2011|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

By a 3-1 vote, Marc Norman lost his latest appeal of plans for a shopping center and supermarket at Turf Valley.

The Howard County Board of Appeals discussed Turf Valley residents' fears about the potential for added traffic on the narrow residential road within the 809-acre Ellicott City development for nearly two hours Tuesday night at the George Howard Building. Board member Henry Eigles championed their cause by arguing that the case should be sent back to the Planning Board for more traffic reviews. Norman, a resident of Turf Valley who did not attend the hearing, had appealed Planning Board approval.

Residents had testified at earlier sessions that they worry about people heading for the shopping center off Marriottsville Road on the property's western edge by driving through their community on Turf Valley Road as a shortcut to avoid congestion on U.S. 40 and on Marriottsville Road.

"The issue was whether the Planning Board considered traffic on Turf Valley Road," Eigles said.

But the other three members present voted against that, saying the hotel and golf course owners satisfied the county's growth-control laws and their plan should be approved.

"I understand the emotions of it," board member Maurice Simpkins said, but he voted against Eigles.

Residents' fears "are not enough to overcome the presumption of correctness given the Planning Board," board Chairman James Walsh said.

Walsh argued that Norman's own traffic consultant never raised issues about Turf Valley Road, and the board may reverse the Planning Board only if they find a decision was arbitrary or capricious, or was clearly erroneous. "You may not like the Planning Board decision, but you cannot say it is clearly erroneous," he said.

Eigles agreed, saying he only wants the board to study the traffic issue on Turf Valley Road.

As they talked, the board members faced a large yellow sign held by Jeanette Kendall, a critic of the development, which said, "We have many children, but none to spare." After the vote, Paul Kendall, her husband, said, "I'm just amazed at the lack of fairness. It's one more example that we can never get a fair hearing on any of this."

The general dispute over the size and density of the proposed redevelopment at Turf Valley has been going on for about seven years, with Norman complaining about a range of issues that boil down to his belief that the more than 1,300 new homes, shopping center and offices approved in initial form in the mid-1980s will strain existing roads and infrastructure.

Other residents of Turf Valley support the project, saying they want the supermarket and don't fear traffic. Several other Norman appeals involving a condominium project and a relocated golf shed are pending.

Grading has been under way on the shopping center project, but no building permits have been issued.

In recent years, Norman allied with grocery store unions that oppose a nonunion Harris Teeter store proposed for the shopping center. Attorneys for Mangione Family Enterprises, which owns the hotel and golf courses, contend that the developer has met all the county's rules for the center and the 55,000-square-foot supermarket, while Norman has argued through attorney G. Macy Nelson that area roads are too small and improvements too distant for the project to work.

Louis Mangione, a principal in the family firm, said after the vote, "I feel they acted in the proper manner." He said he doesn't believe that motorists headed west on U.S. 40 toward the shopping center would detour onto a narrow, winding road through a residential community with four speed bumps when they can arrive more quickly by staying on main roads.

Norman has argued that although widening of Marriottsville Road is planned, money constraints will delay that and other road improvements until several years after the center is built. He favors a new entrance directly off U.S. 40, but the State Highway Administration has opposed it.

David S. Lynch, an attorney representing Norman on Tuesday night, said he wasn't sure whether the board's ruling would be appealed to the Circuit Court.

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