Aminor oversight on a building plat is sending a developer back to the drawing board and allowing a neighborhood to breathe a temporary sigh of relief.
The county Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously denied approval of 254 rental townhouses proposed for a 20-acre site at Ridge Road and Kali Drive in Eldersburg yesterday.
The project is the final phase of the 20-year-old Carrolltowne development.
Robert H. Lennon, a planning commissioner, said Security Development Corp. had missed a step in the review process and would have to reapply.
"We were looking through the records and it jumped out at us," he said. "The plat is not a buildable parcel of record."
The plat lists zero buildable lots on the site and says the property "is not for residential use until it is submitted to and approved by the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission."
The developer recently withdrew a subdivision application and was seeking site plan approval only. The commission cannot rule on a site plan until a buildable lot number is established.
"The developer has to come back and start from ground zero," said Joseph Mettle, another planning commissioner.
James Moxley, owner of the Ellicott City company, said he would take the ruling under advisement and would discuss it with his engineers.
If Security presents new plans to the planning panel, it will have to prove facilities are adequate to support 254 more homes.
Although Carrolltowne predates the county's adequate facilities law, its original approval in 1975 was contingent on 47 conditions, including school enrollment. Carrolltowne Elementary, which was built on 20 acres deeded from the developer, is now at 133 percent of capacity, with many of its students in portable classrooms.
Rental townhouses will attract young families with more children and add to the crowding, residents said.
Several times, Commissioner Dennis Bowman banged his gavel and called for quiet from a roomful of residents who interrupted a presentation by William B. Dulany, attorney for Security.
"These will be rental units badly needed in this county," said Mr. Dulany. "Everyone can't afford a $200,000 home. People starting out often can't afford any home."
Karl Teel of Melstone Valley said that on his daily commute to the Baltimore Beltway, he sees "an ocean of vacant apartments" minutes away on the Baltimore County stretch of Liberty Road.
He wondered about the need for more apartments in nearby Carroll.
"They can't move those units without lowering the price and quality," he said.
Several residents repeated concerns about inadequate facilities. They delivered a petition with 672 signatures opposed to the project.
"It is not morally right to mortgage our future with these projects," said Emory Hasenei, a South Carroll resident for 23 years.
Had the commissioners not found the plat oversight, neighbors' objections would have been moot.
A loophole insulated the developer. Since he was not seeking subdivision review, he did not have to prove adequate facilities.
"In my opinion, we didn't have to prove adequate facilities for the site," said Mr. Lennon.
Mr. Mettle said he wants to close that loophole. He said he shared the residents' concerns with crowded schools and roads.
He had planned to ask his colleagues to defer their decision until further study.
At the end of the hearing, several residents asked the developer to meet with them.
"It is important that the neighborhood associations get together with the developer in a friendly atmosphere and discuss where to go from here," said Mr. Mettle.