www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/lisbon-fulton/ph-ho-cf-woodmont-0620-20130619,0,1855335.story

baltimoresun.com

Rezoning request for Woodmont Academy withdrawn

By Blair Ames, bames@tribune.com

11:45 AM EDT, June 19, 2013

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A comprehensive zoning request that has drawn the ire of neighbors living near the former home of Woodmont Academy in Cooksville has been withdrawn.

Attorney Sang Oh, representing the owners of the 66-acre Woodmont Academy property, said the zoning request was withdrawn June 17.

"The continuance of the zoning request at this time is creating additional acrimony that is not helpful," Oh said.

Oh said Dar-us-Salaam still intends to buy the property and looks forward to continued dialogue with neighbors.

Any development on the Woodmont property will go through the conditional use process, Oh said.

The Dar-us-Salaam Muslim Community, including nearly 800 families and currently located in College Park, intends to build an Islamic Community Center, including a mosque and a school on the site.

Dar-us-Salaam operates a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school with about 600 students at its College Park campus. Officials have said the community and school have outgrown current facilities where they have operated for the past 14 years.

But nearby residents of the Woodmont property have argued for months that allowing the Community Center Transition zoning, as suggested by the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning, would have resulted in institutional and business development unsuitable for the western end of the county.

They formed the nonprofit Residents for Responsible Development of Woodmont in opposition of a zoning change.

The Woodmont property is currently zoned rural conservation with conditional use permits for educational and retreat facilities. Residents have said they are not opposed to Dar-us-Salaam using the same conditional uses granted to Woodmont, but are against any additional development on the property.

The conditional use process is more time-consuming and expensive than the comprehensive zoning process.

In an email to supporters on June 17, Residents for the Responsible Development of Woodmont said it was "thrilled to share some great news" regarding the withdrawal of the zoning request.

"Our community has made it clear that we won't sit quietly while large parcels of open space in Western Howard County get up-zoned for huge institutional and business developments," the email states. "Congratulations on these positive outcomes you helped to achieve."

The email also states that the group's focus is now on negotiating a set of covenants that will limit the size and scope of the development and its operation.

Based on negotiations to date, the group believes many issues will be agreed upon before the start of the conditional use process, according to the email.

Oh said no agreements on possible development of the property have been made.