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Rear perspective Revised concept plan for the proposed Regent at Stone House wedding venue in Churchville. The owners of a Churchville farm that drew community-wide outrage after they wanted to build a wedding venue are modifying their project.
Rear perspective Revised concept plan for the proposed Regent at Stone House wedding venue in Churchville. The owners of a Churchville farm that drew community-wide outrage after they wanted to build a wedding venue are modifying their project. (Photo courtesy Fallston Group)

The owners of a Churchville farm have altered their plans for an accessory building, originally proposed as a wedding venue, that sparked a neighborhood controversy last summer.

A modified version of the building, which is smaller and will be focused primarily on equine events, will be presented at a public community input meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 28, at Harford Technical High School at 200 Thomas Run Road in Bel Air, beginning at 6 p.m.

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The Regent at Stone House, at 517 Glenville Road, would primarily be an equine facility, focusing on horse-riding services, with weddings and other events as a secondary use, owner Tim Limberger said. Occupancy will be reduced to 163 people, not 225 as first proposed.

Limberger said his family has listened to neighbors' concerns and believes the community better understands his passion for the project as a side hobby, as well as his commitment to the neighborhood.

"We want to stay more agricultural, leaving the land, and having horses on the land," he explained in a telephone interview, later adding via email: "In fact, we scrapped the original project, costing us a significant amount of money since all of the plans had been created. We believe the existing project is much more in-line with our neighbors' desires."

More than 200 people attended a community input meeting on the proposed Regent at Stone House wedding venue held at Harford Community College in late August. The majority said they were opposed to the project, saying a commercial venture of that sort doesn't belong in the mostly rural neighborhood served by the two-lane, winding Glenville Road.

The zoning for the 51-acre property is agricultural. According to the Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning and the Limbergers' lawyer, the proposed building is a permitted use and does not require any special zoning exceptions or variances.

A community input meeting is required by the county because of the vehicle trips that will be generated by the new use, John Gessner, the Limberger's lawyer, said Thursday. They decided to hold a second meeting to present the various changes in the plans, he said.

Limberger said he and his wife, Lisa, did some rethinking and have tried to network with their neighbors.

The family hired the Fallston Group LLC to help them "manage a difficult situation and provide a sense of clarity," citing a very hostile relationship with the community, Limberger said. Rob Weinhold, the executive advisory and strategic communications firm's principal, participated in Thursday's phone interview with Limberger.

Weinhold said more than 25 people attended two small community meetings on Dec. 22 and Jan. 15. Invitations were sent to residents on certain parts of Glenville Road, Cool Branch Road, Windy Pine Drive, Bryarly Court and Oak Farm Road, he said.

"The smaller meetings have been very productive and significantly opened dialogue with those neighbors directly impacted," Weinhold said via email. "We found them to be very cordial considering some of the high emotion and skepticism leading into each meeting. In fact, most every attendee shook hands with the presenters in appreciation prior to leaving."

Although the letter posted on the residents' Facebook page, No Regent at Stone House, expresses continued dissatisfaction with the December conversation and vowed, "We are resolved to fight this at every twist and turn," Tim Limberger said relations have since improved and he is determined to continue trying to work with the neighbors.

"We purchased the property to share with others and felt drawn to the property," he explained. "The original owner, Rev. William Finney, was the founder of Presbyterianism in Harford County and held the pulpit for nearly 40 years at Churchville Presbyterian. He was responsible for changing Crossroads to Churchville. He believed the church would bring the village together – hence Churchville."

"We, too, believe The Regent will eventually bring the community back together," he continued. "Rev. Finney was responsible for teaching farmers in Harford County how to be more productive farmers. We, too, are making sure the land is used for farming and agricultural purposes. I firmly believe that once the project comes to life, neighbors will appreciate the amenity and care with which we manage our passion."

Weinhold acknowledged security measures have been taken to protect the Limbergers and their property. A letter posted on the No Regent at Stone House Facebook page claimed the Limbergers had undercover officers at the December meeting with residents.

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"Regarding security at the meetings, there has been and will continue to be a presence as the attempt to intimidate, harass and threaten is real," Weinhold wrote.

Limberger said his three young children have become involved in horseback riding and "we knew we needed a property that could sustain horses – and that was Stone House."

"We are not developers, we are simply a family who has a wonderful property we want to share. It will allow us to follow our passion," he said. In addition to reducing the size of the building and changing its exterior appearance, the parking area has been reduced.

Limberger said he "absolutely" still feels confident about the project's viability.

"This is a project we are passionate about and we are following the letter of the law," he wrote, adding he hopes next week's community input meeting will give residents a better perspective about his family and what the Regent is really about.

"Unfortunately, our neighbors have been misled by others and we are hoping that they are open to knowing what the real facts are," he wrote. "Our goal continues to be transparency and openness. This is where we live, work and raise our family…we want to have a high quality of life just like our neighbors do."

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