Opponents hit setback in fight against Regent at Stone House plan

Opponents of the proposed Regent at Stone House equine center and wedding venue near Churchville were handed a setback earlier this week when the Harford County Council agreed with its zoning hearing examiner that neither has authority to hear an appeal of the plan’s approval.

Residents who live near the proposed 4,035-square-foot building that would be mainly as an equine center with stalls on the lower floor, but also as a wedding reception facility with larger rooms above it, have been fighting for more than three years to stop the project.

The 51.5-acre site along Glenville Road would also feature 56 parking spaces, including four handicapped accessible ones and a 20,000-gallon underground water storage tank as part of its fire suppression system.

The plan by Tim and Lisa Limberger to develop a portion of their property was approved Nov. 29, 2016 by the Harford County planning director, according to the appeal hearing transcript.

On Dec. 29, 2016, Joel and Priscilla Eissinger, Vincent and Patricia Osteria and Jason and Nicole Rosenzweig appealed the decision to the county’s zoning hearing examiner; however, the Limbergers argued the examiner has no jurisdiction to hear such a case.

Hearing Examiner Robert Kahoe heard the case March 22 and in a ruling dated April 12, dismissed the appeal, ruling the hearing examiner was not the proper appeals avenue.

Kahoe’s ruling was appealed to the County Council, which also sits as Board of Zoning Appeals. During its meeting Tuesday evening, the council voted to uphold the hearing examiner.

In discussing the case before he voted, Councilman Michael Perrone said the crux of the issue was did the council have the authority to overturn an administrative action by a county department head.

If the council, as the board of appeals, were to review the case and rule that the director of planning and zoning made an improper decision, “wouldn’t that be a de facto disapproval?” he asked.

Four types of special developments can be approved by the board, Perrone said, “and this special development is not one of them.”

Two days before filed the appeal with the county late last year, Michael Leaf, the lawyer who represents the Eissingers, Osterias and Rosenzweigs, also filed an administrative agency appeal with the Harford County Circuit Court, according to online court records.

According to the latest online docket entry, an order staying that appeal was entered on Jan. 5, 2017, and there have been no other proceedings since.

Leaf was not available for comment on the County Council’s decision Tuesday.

Since it was first proposed in 2014, the Regent at Stone House project has drawn criticism from neighbors, who don’t want to see commercial entities in an agricultural neighborhood which has some of the priciest properties in Harford County.

Hundreds of people have packed community input meetings and a Development Advisory Committee meeting to protest the plans, which the Limbergers scaled back after a first round of meetings to appease nearby residents. Opponents weren’t satisfied with the new plans, either.

They expressed concerns about increased traffic in a quiet community and the possibility of guests driving after they had been drinking at one of the events.

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