A state appeals court ruled yesterday that a group of 80 Hampstead neighbors lacks the standing required to fight a controversial 220-home housing development -- in court or before the town zoning board.
The Court of Special Appeals found that Hampstead Councilman Stephen A. Holland and his neighbors are prohibited from using a provision in the Hampstead Town Code -- adopted after the development was approved -- to challenge the project.
Neighbors said the decision will mean more clogged highways, crowded schools and an overburdened water system in a community that is one of the fastest growing in the state.
"We're very concerned because this means that something can happen in our town, and unless we live right next door, we can take no exception to it," Holland said.
Developer Martin K. P. Hill, who has built more than 1,000 homes in Hampstead since 1984, said that he was gratified by the decision and that he hopes to begin construction next month.
"I felt all along that we were right, legally and from a practical standpoint," Hill said.
Hill said that he plans to build 148 single-family homes and then 72 town homes on the tract, which is north of town.
Hill won approval from Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission on Aug. 29, 1994, to build a 220-home addition to North Carroll Farms IV.
Holland and his neighbors appealed to the Board of Zoning Appeals, which dismissed their case because town codes denied them the right to appeal.
In 1995, a new mayor and Town Council -- elected on a slow-growth platform -- passed an ordinance that gave any "town taxpayer" the right to appeal commission decisions to the zoning board.
That ordinance was invalidated Jan. 3, 1996, by Carroll County Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr.
The appeals court affirmed Beck, saying state law requires those who appeal to a zoning board to show how the proposal will adversely affect them "in a way different from that suffered by the public generally."
The court said Holland and his neighbors failed to do that.
"Mr. Holland acknowledged that the effect of the subdivision on the school would be no different for his children than for any other child and that he would be no more affected by the subdivision than any other member of the general public " Judge James R. Eyler wrote for a three-judge panel.
Hampstead's population has jumped 30 percent during the past five years, and a Maryland Municipal League study released this year ranked Hampstead second in the rate of growth of its assessable tax base during the past decade.
As a result, schools are crowded and several intersections along Route 30 have been designated as "failing" by the State Highway Administration.
Hill said that a major complaint raised by the neighbors -- that schools are crowded -- would be remedied if county officials pumped more money into schools.
"That situation is due to a failure on the part of the county government to spend the money on the schools that's needed," he said.
Holland said that no matter who is to blame, something has to be done to curb growth that has crowded Spring Garden Elementary School, where his son is a third-grader. The school is at 28 percent overcapacity, he said.
"Whether it's the county's fault, the state's fault or the developer's fault, my concern is that there's a problem here, and until it's straightened out, we shouldn't let it affect our children," he said.
Pub Date: 12/06/96