Developer's rezoning request upsets community


A Severna Park developer is trying again to get two acres near Hammonds Ferry Road zoned for residential development, surprising neighbors who thought they had beaten back an earlier attempt at the change.

Cattail Associates Inc. has asked the county Board of Appeals to review the decision of an administrative hearing officer who rejected a request to change the zoning on the wooded parcel from open space to single-family residential development.

Most of the 10-acre parcel between Kingbrook and Kingwood roads in Linthicum is zoned for residential development. James F. Muzik, a partner in Cattail, said he will buy the land without the additional zoning, but is asking for the additional acreage to build more houses and to help owner Claire L. Davison get more money for her land.

"We're trying to give her the most value," he said.

Ms. Davison, 70, of the 200 block of N. Hammonds Ferry Road, said the property has been in her family since 1912. She never knew the two acres was not zoned for residential development until a year ago when she decided to sell the land to Cattail, she said.

"I wish now I had developed back in the '80s before the last zoning went through," she said.

But her neighbors say the land never was zoned for residential use.

The land was "zoned open space in the '70s," said Gerald P. Starr, president of the Linthicum Shipley Improvement Association. "It was zoned open space in the '80s, and I can't see the county changing it in the '90s."

He said he would be "surprised if the county grants it after all the years of allowing open space to protect the community."

Robert A. Perkins, county administrative hearing officer, rejected Cattail's rezoning request in February, writing that Cattail could not prove that the original zoning was a mistake or that the residential designation would be compatible with the General Development Plan.

County maps show that the land is in a 100-year flood plain, which means it could not be developed. But Mr. Muzik said those maps are wrong and the land never should have been zoned open space.

The neighbors argue that he is wrong.

"It's been decided and drawn for open space for years, and it was something of a surprise to see Ms. Davison intends to show this as a mistake," said Donald R. Streeting, a past president of the community association whose home on Center Hill Avenue is near the Davison property.

Earlier this year, 42 residents signed a petition opposing the zoning change.

An eroded stream bed cuts through the property and eventually dumps into the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay.

Residents say developing the property would create problems with storm water runoff, destroy a wooded habitat for small animals and a buffer between the community and an industrial park to the west.

"Sure, they don't want to lose it," Ms. Davison said. "But it's not fair to me."

Mary D. Vincitore said she and her husband searched 1 1/2 years for a home before settling on their house on Kingwood Road.

However, if Cattail wins, "we will consider moving," she said.

Robert H. Dilworth, who grew up on nearby Sycamore Road, recalled playing with friends in the low-lying, swampy woods where Cattail wants to build.

Now, he lives on Kingwood Road, a cul-de-sac downhill from Ms. Davison's land.

Shortly after his family moved into the house in 1977, heavy rains overwhelmed a small storm drain on the Davison property and flooded his yard and those of his neighbors. He worries that additional development on the land will cause more flooding problems.

"Where's all the water going to go?" Mr. Dilworth said. "That's my question. That's everybody's question."

The county Board of Appeals will review the case at 6:30 p.m. July 20 in the council chambers at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

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