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Builder questions appeal


An appeal challenging the Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission's approval of a 220-house subdivision should be limited to whether the residents have legal standing to appeal, the developer's attorney argued in papers filed in Carroll Circuit Court last week.

Elwood E. Swam, the lawyer representing Martin K .P. Hill, the Manchester developer who is building North Carroll Farms Section IV in Hampstead, filed a motion July 18 to strike the residents' memorandum in the case, which is before Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr.

Mr. Swam declined to comment on the case. But Thomas J. Gisriel, the lawyer who represents more than 100 Hampstead families opposed to the subdivision, said, "There is some potential that the court will address the merits of the appeal."

Mr. Gisriel said Judge Beck also may comment on whether Hampstead's commission should have approved the subdivision in the first place.

In the memorandum, Mr. Gisriel not only argued legal standing issues, but discussed his client's reasons for why the subdivision should have been denied.

The residents' petition was filed in April, after Hampstead's Board of Zoning Appeals rebuffed the residents' appeal of the commission's decision and said the subdivision's opponents were no more aggrieved than any other resident of Hampstead.

Commission members approved the fourth section of the subdivision in August, though county and state officials indicated that roads and schools in the area were inadequate to support the additional demands on public facilities that the development would create.

Hampstead's code states that the commission should deny or delay building plans if town, state or county agencies indicate that the infrastructure -- roads, schools and fire protection, for example -- is inadequate.

Hampstead commission members -- on the advice of legal counsel -- said they could not deny Mr. Hill's subdivision because the county controls school construction. Commission members also noted that the state controls Route 30, the main road through town.

"What we believe is that a clear violation of the law is reflected in that approval" of the subdivision by the Hampstead Board of Zoning Appeals, said Mr. Gisriel.

In his memorandum, which was filed July 3, Mr. Gisriel stated that the petitioners clearly have legal standing to appeal under a new Hampstead law that allows any Hampstead taxpayer to appeal a decision of the Board of Zoning Appeals.

In addition, Mr. Gisriel argued, the residents would have legal standing anyway because three of the four original appellants live in North Carroll Farms, the subdivision that is being expanded.

A fourth appellant, Stephen A. Holland, has legal standing because his children attend the schools that would be affected by the expansion, Mr. Gisriel said.

"The board's conclusion that the overcrowding of schools affects everyone in the town the same as Mr. Holland is false," Mr. Gisriel wrote. "Not every person in the town has a child in the public schools. . . ."

Mr. Gisriel also argued that the development should not have been approved because Route 30 had been deemed inadequate by the State Department of Transportation, and because Carroll County school officials had said the elementary school serving the development already is overcrowded.

In addition, the well provided by the developer for the homes contains nitrate levels that exceed federal standards, and Mr. Hill has planned to build townhouses within the 300-foot railroad buffer that Hampstead's ordinance calls for between homes and the CSX rail lines that run through town, according to Mr. Gisriel's memorandum.

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