Bowleys Quarters waterfront condominium plan rejected

A developer's plan for a 36-unit waterfront condominium with boat slips that has pitted neighbor against neighbor for years in Bowleys Quarters has been rejected by a Baltimore County hearing officer.

In a 45-page opinion based on days of hearings, John E. Beverungen denied the Galloway Creek condominium proposed by Milton A. Rehbein III, who for decades has owned a marina at the site along Burke Road on the Bowleys Quarters peninsula. While Beverungen agreed with some of the developers' arguments, he rejected the project on grounds that it conflicts with the county master plan and neighborhood community plan, and violates a law that specifies where such projects are allowed in Bowleys Quarters.

"I'm very happy with the opinion," said Allen Robertson, a resident of Bowleys Quarters and leading opponent of the project. He said he was particularly pleased that the opinion mentioned the Bowleys Quarters community plan, which supports "single family detached" homes, not apartment or condominium buildings.

John Gontrum, the lawyer representing Rehbein, said Tuesday that he had not yet had a chance to talk with his client about the ruling, which was issued on Friday. Rehbein has 30 days from the date of the opinion to challenge the ruling before the county Board of Appeals, but no decision has been made about the next step, Gontrum said.

Rehbein, who first formally proposed the development late in 2007, did not return a phone message seeking comment for this article. J. Carroll Holzer, the lawyer for opponents, and county People's Counsel Peter Max Zimmerman — who opposed the project — also could not be reached.

Beverungen rejected several arguments made by opponents, who argued, among other things, that the planned four-story, 331-foot long building would be out of place in their neighborhood of single-family homes and marinas. One resident said at a hearing in the summer that neighbors were calling this "a Walmart with windows and balconies."

The developer's advocates in the neighborhood have said that the condominium would provide homes for people who have retired and sold their homes and want to stay in the area. Some also argued that the proposal would improve the property, part of which is now used for boat storage.

Rehbein's plan includes removing two of three piers, cutting the number of boat slips from 188 to 36 and enlarging underwater grass areas. He would remove some paving, build the condominium on about four acres and set aside 10 undeveloped acres for conservation.

The developer is pursuing the project as a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which allows more intense development than the underlying zoning would otherwise permit. In exchange, the developer has to provide some community benefit. In this case, Rehbein had said he planned to make a donation to the local volunteer fire company.

Beverungen, an administrative law judge, wrote that he did not agree that the project could affect the "health or general welfare of the community," nor did he find that the project was too big for the neighborhood, that it would create significant traffic congestion or "overcrowd the land." He was not convinced by the testimony of a man who lives next to the project site that the new building would be so tall it would block his access to "adequate light and air."

The law judge did accept the opponents' argument that the project ran afoul of a law adopted in 2007 specifying the conditions under which PUDs could be built in Bowleys Quarters outside of the Urban Rural Demarcation Line. The boundary established in the 1960s designates areas outside the line for less intense development.

The 2007 law says PUDs can only be built outside that line if the land for the project is in a maritime boatyard or maritime marina zone. Beverungen ruled that because only four of 14.5 acres in the Galloway Creek proposal are in that zone, and most of the rest is classified as conservation land, the proposal conflicts with the 2007 law.

The judge also ruled that the Galloway Creek plan conflicts with Master Plan 2010, which designates that part of Bowleys Quarters for "single family residential development and woodlands, farm fields, stream valleys and areas of significant historic and cultural value." Citing a recent Court of Special Appeals opinion, Beverungen said the Master Plan should be considered "binding."

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