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Board dismisses road complaint County, developer remain at odds


The county Board of Appeals threw out yesterday a complaint from the developers of a planned community near Laurel before the first witness ever testified at a scheduled hearing.

The board ruled unanimously that it had no jurisdiction to decide whether Russett Center Limited Partnership must connect an internal road in the community it is building at the intersection of Route 198 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to one outside the community.

The company, which is building 3,500 homes on 615 acres, feared the county would require expensive improvements if it connected Russett's Woodland Hills Way to Whiskey Bottom Road.

But county lawyers argued that the link is part of a private agreement they signed with the developer and out of the board's jurisdiction.

The six board members agreed without comment, promising a written opinion in 30 to 60 days.

The issue of the road has divided residents. A group of homeowners on Woodland Hills Way near the proposed intersection signed a petition complaining that "the proposed county action would encourage outside interference."

But Clare Warnagiris, of the Laurel Highland Town House Association, a community off Whiskey Bottom Road just opposite Woodland Hills Way, said the road should go through. Although increased traffic may be a problem, linking the two roads would make it easier for police and rescue vehicles, and help alleviate the drug problem at what is now a dead-end street in her community, she said.

Katherine Dahl, Russett's lawyer, said that the developer would rather not build the link, but the firm would connect the roads if the county agreed not to require it to make improvements to Whiskey Bottom Road.

But Assistant County Attorney Bob Pollock said the agreement calls for the roads to be connected in the first phase, well before 4,000 homes are completed.

He said the link and the improvements to Whiskey Bottom Road are separate issues and that any improvements will be negotiated in the future when other traffic studies for the last two phases of the development are reviewed.

Ms. Dahl said after the hearing that she would have liked the appeals board to say something about the road improvement issue. She said the developer will wait for the written opinion before deciding whether to ask the circuit court to review the decision.

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